Chelsea head into the 2017/2018 Premier League season as defending champions. Conte will hope they can hit the ground running against Burnley at Stamford Bridge in the season opener after enduring what has so far proven to be a difficult summer.
Chelsea have been rebuffed in their approaches for quite a few of their targets and Antonio Conte seems to be cutting a frustrated figure. Chelsea have also suffered a number of pre-season defeats with the most recent instance being the Community Shield against Arsenal. The losses only strengthen the argument that they need reinforcements.
The 48-year-old has brought in Alvaro Morata from European Champions Real Madrid, German confederations cup winner Antonio Rudiger from AS Roma, Dynamic midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko from AS Monaco and veteran Spanish goalkeeper Willy Caballero as a backup. These signings are strong and could make a case for a successful summer except for the fact that they are merely replacing players who have left rather than adding depth to the side.
The situation with Diego Costa is definitely far from being resolved and a reconciliation with the boss seems highly unlikely. Matic has departed to Manchester United and Chelsea have sold/loaned out quite a lot of their players including Asmir Begovic, Nathan Ake and Kurt Zouma.
The Blues have been handed a straight forward opening game opponent in the form of Burnley. Sean Dyche will be hoping that The Clarets have left behind their away day blues from last season which culminated in just 1 win from 19 games on the road last season.
Here is Chelsea’s predicted line-up vs Burnley in Saturday’s intriguing clash.
#13 Thibaut Courtois
It seems highly unlikely that Courtois will be usurped from his position as Chelsea’s number 1 in days to come. The Belgian has been known to be a great shot stopper and will be hoping to defend the title as well as the Golden Glove he won last season for the highest number of clean sheets. Hopefully, his confidence has not been affected by the strange penalty against Arsenal on Sunday.
CB: #2 Antonio Rudiger
The German international will get a taste of their premier league straight away with Azpilicueta having to shift to accommodate for Moses’ suspension. One of the most highly touted defenders, the 24-year old will be hoping he can make an impression and make early inroads in the first XI.
CB: #30 David Luiz
“Geezer” as he is fondly called has been an all time favourite among the fans. Many were perplexed by Chelsea’s decision to resign the erratic defender last season but Luiz proved to be a changed player under Conte. Sitting at the heart of the defence, Luiz provides a connection between the back 3 and the midfield as he is quite comfortable on the ball.
CB: #24 Gary Cahill
The muscular English centre-back was Chelsea’s stand-in captain for almost the entire title winning campaign and has now been named as the Club Captain after the departure of the legendary John Terry. Gary Cahill has found comfort in this system that Conte employs after a rather shaky start last season and has now turned into one of the first names on the team-sheet.
RWB: #28 Cesar Azpilicueta
The Spaniard has been immense for Chelsea over the last few years. He is their go to man to fill up any position that needs it. Mourinho used him as a left-back ahead of Filipe Luis and even went on to say that a team of 11 Azpilicueta’s could win the Champions League. Conte deployed him as a centre-back despite Terry being present and later Zouma’s return from injury. This speaks volumes about the player’s value to the club. With Moses missing due to a suspension he is serving, expect Chelsea to call upon Dave to save the day.
CM: #4 Cesc Fabregas
The former Gunner endured a difficult start to last season, being behind in the pecking order to Matic and Kante. He did nonetheless stay back and fought for his place to regain Conte’s confidence. Fabregas remains Chelsea’s most creative outlet and expect him to play a key part this season in trying to carve out the defences open.
CM: #7 N’Golo Kante
The diminutive Frenchman was immense in the title charge last season and also swept through with all the personal accolades including PFA player of the year. Kante is a vital cog in the wheels of Chelsea and provides ample cover for the defenders. If he strikes a partnership with Fabregas or Bakayoko later on the season, expect Chelsea to be a force to reckon with.
LWB: #3 Marcos Alonso
The former Fiorentina defender was a major part of the change in the system which revived Chelsea’s season. Alonso was very effective in the attacking third for Chelsea last season. There a few targets on the list to upgrade on Alonso because of his defensive frailties but he looks assured to feature for now.
RW: #22 Willian
The Brazilian will be starting in the absence of Hazard and will look to shoulder more responsibility. He will be looking for any set-piece opportunity that comes his way after becoming something of a specialist over last 2 years.
CF: #23 Michy Batshuayi
The former Marseille frontman has been the only positive to take from pre-season and despite the Club making record signing of Morata, he will be the favoured striker at least in the first couple of gameweeks. This bodes well for him and gives the striker who scored Chelsea’s title clincher last season a chance to stake his claim to be a regular.
LW: #11 Pedro Rodriguez
In the absence of Eden Hazard, the former Barcelona forward will have a major role to play. Pedro will be looking to trouble Burnley with his pace and trickery and will be confident having returned from a rather successful campaign.
The team can be expected to line-up in a 3-4-3 formation like last season as depicted below: