Defending Premier League champions Chelsea will face Burney in their opening fixture of the season at Stamford Bridge, and after Sunday’s defeat to Arsenal in the Community Shield, Antonio Conte will expect his side to take all three points and get their campaign off and running in style.
Last season the Blues faced Sean Dyche’s side in their third game and came away 3-0 winners, which made it three wins in three for the Italian in charge. The Clarets were tipped for relegation but had an amazing home record last year, they ended up finishing 14th and surprising a lot of people. Ten wins and three draws from the 19 home games was impressive but their away form let them down massively as they won only one all season, which is shocking and will need improving. Even in the home game against Chelsea back in February they proved their Premier league worth as they fort back from an early Pedro goal to draw the game 1-1.
Conte has been busy during the transfer window with a lot of coming and goings, on what seems a daily basis in West London. Diego Costa is the biggest name to leave, and despite not officially being let go as of yet, his falling out with the coach has been very public and his departure is a foregone conclusion. Alvaro Morata is the man who has been brought in to fill the void left by the boisterous Spaniard, a £58 million initial fee plus add ons was agreed with Real Madrid and Morata will now link up with his former Juventus boss. Other big name arrivals include Tiemoue Bakayoko, Antonio Rudiger and Willy Caballero. 18 players have left on loan with 10 leaving on permanent deals, Nemanja Matic is the most controversial as he has hooked up with former coach Jose Mourinho at Manchester United. This has seemed to some what disrupt the camp as Chelsea lost two of their three pre-season games as well as the defeat on penalties to the Gunners on Sunday at Wembley.
For Burnley, they have brought in five players over the summer, with 18 leaving. Michael Keane’s 30 million pounds move to Everton could be a massive loss, whilst Charlie Taylor, Jonathan Walters, Phil Bardsley, Jack Cork and Adam Legzdins have all come in to try to keep them in the top flight. Dyche has looked for proven Premier League players and will hope that they have the tools to help the Clarets, as they could face another year of battling in the bottom half of the table.
Their pre-season has been a good one, although they have faced two lower league sides, an Irish team, two from the Championship and Celta Vigo of Spain, they remained unbeaten with four wins and two draws so they will come into the game with confidence at least.
Conte has a number worries heading into the first game, Bakayoko is injured and key man Eden Hazard is out until September with his knee injury. Victor Moses is suspended after being sent off in last years FA Cup final, so the Italian may have to hand new boy Rudiger a start in the back three, with Cesar Azpilicueta moving over to the right-wing back position. Cesc Fabregas will replace the departed Matic and play alongside N’Golo Kante, Pedro and Willian will most likely start-up front with either Michy Batshuayi or Morata as the striker.
Dyche will be without striker Andre Gray as the forward is set to join Watford after a deal was agreed on Wednesday. He will set up with a 4-5-1 as Burnley will look to try and stop Chelsea playing, Matthew Lowton, Ben Mee, James Tarkowski and Stephen Ward will likely start in a disciplined back four, while Cork and one of either Steven Defour or Jeff Hendrick will shield them. Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Robbie Brady can play on either flank, Walters will challenge Sam Vokes and Ashley Barnes for the lone roll up front.
- Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 18 opening day fixtures (W15 D3), last defeat was to Coventry City in 1998.
- Burnley, however, have lost all three of their opening day clashes in the top flight.
- The Blues have not lost in all six of their games in which they have faced the Clarets ( W4, D2).
- Conte’s side need one more win to make it 300 Saturday victories.
- Burnley have a poor record in London, only winning once out of all their previous 16 attempts, that was against Crystal Palace in April however.
If the Spaniard is to start either in place of Batshuyi or even as his strike partner, he could have a huge say on this result. Anyone’s debut always attracts the spotlight as they are keen to impress their new spectators, Morata is a hard-working player who plays with his heart on his sleeve, he is tall and strong so will not struggle with that aspect of the Premier League. In a game I feel Chelsea will dominate possession and create a lot of chances, the new number 9 will be hoping to grab a goal or two and get his career off and running in England.
It would be easy to pick a key player like Vokes as his goals would be very important in a game like this, however, I feel Burnley will struggle to create chances against a solid Chelsea team. So at the other end is where they will have to somehow try to stop the Blues. Heaton saved Burnley a number of times last campaign, most notably against Man United at Old Trafford when he made a string of saves and kept the game at 0-0 nicking the draw. A performance like this, maybe somewhat hard to come by with the amount of action he will surely face. But you never know if he could pull off a couple of saves during the first half and go in at half-time, the Clarets may just grab a point and all thanks to their captain and goalkeeper.
Just like last August when Chelsea crushed Burnley 3-0, I feel a repeat is on the cards. After the mixed pre-season and the community shield defeat, Conte will have his men fully focused he will expect a good solid performance and a nice easy three points to ease any early pressure he may face whilst trying to defend the crown. Morata will be looking to impress his manager and the home support, the striker could run riot on his debut especially with the likes of Pedro, Fabregas and Willian providing the ammunition. Kante in the holding role could also be too strong for the Burnley midfield to even get the ball far forward enough for a sniff on goal.
Chelsea 3-0 Burnley