English Premier League Season Preview: Chelsea

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Defending champions Chelsea were on the wrong end of a shock result in the Premier League last weekend, going down 3-2 to Burnley at Stamford Bridge.

The accumulator-destroying result took more than just three potential points away from The Blues; they must now approach Sunday’s London derby without the services of key duo Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas after both were given their marching orders.

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Chelsea finished the game against Burnley with 9 men after Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas were sent off, yet still managed to score two goals to give them hope of coming away from the game with something. Alvaro Morata played a huge part in that, scoring one and setting up David Luiz in one of the few positives to come from a disastrous opening day.

Antonio Conte’s frustration over the result adds to the dismay he’s shown at Chelsea’s bizarre transfer window; they’ve shown hesitance to add to a title-winning squad, bringing in only Antonio Rudiger in defence and Alvaro Morata to replace the outgoing Diego Costa, while Nemanja Matic was somehow given the green light to join Manchester United.

Perhaps none of that infuriated the Italian manager more than Manchester United’s other move this summer: the signing of Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian was widely expected to re-join The Blues after returning a career-high 25 Premier League goals with Everton, but opted for Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils instead.

An area of concern that Chelsea need to take care of before August 31 is the midfield. Cesc Fabregas, Tiemoue Bakayoko and N’Golo Kante are their only recognised central midfielders, and with the first two unavailable for the Tottenham clash, reinforcements must be on the way.

One of which is Leicester City’s Danny Drinkwater, according to various reports. The Englishman formed a formidable partnership with N’Golo Kante in Leicester’s fairy tale Premier League triumph of 2016 and, even though he might not feature as regularly for Chelsea, would be a fine addition to the squad for Antonio Conte.

Predicted XI vs. Tottenham:

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A lack of alternatives leaves Antonio Conte with an interesting choice of both personnel and system for Sunday; Tottenham have the potential to overload their weakened midfield with the likes of Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Moussa Dembele and Eric Dier all dropping in, while a switch to a midfield three doesn’t seem plausible at the moment due to Chelsea’s list of omissions. They continue without Eden Hazard, who returned to training and featured in a game against QPR’s under-20’s, while Pedro and Tiemoue Bakayoko are also unlikely to feature.

Chelsea need to sort out their disciplinary issues if they hope to get out of the first two months in tact; they face Tottenham, Everton, Arsenal and Manchester City before the end of September, and travel to Stoke and Leicester – two sides who unpredictably blow hot and cold.

Add the strain of Champions League fixtures in September and the apparent pit of despair grows deeper for The Blues, who are threatening to suffer another Premier League title hangover ala the calamitous 2015/16 season that saw the greatest manager in their history, Jose Mourinho, unceremoniously sacked in helpless defeat.

Or perhaps we’re just overreacting after an unexpected opening day result? This is still mostly the same side that won the Premier League last season, and they’ve added a crafty goalscorer in Alvaro Morata and promising centre-half in Antonio Rudiger. They’re being guided by one of the most tactically astute managers in the world, and with the help of a few late signings, should be able to steer the Chelsea ship back on track.

Chelsea’s August and September EPL fixtures:

chelsea2-3 vs. Burnley (H) – Saturday August 12, 2017

chelseavs. Tottenham (A) – Sunday August 20, 2017

chelseavs. Everton (H) – Sunday August 27, 2017

chelseavs. Leicester City (A) – Saturday September 9, 2017

chelseavs. Arsenal (H) – Sunday September 17, 2017

chelseavs. Stoke City (A) – Saturday September 23, 2017

chelseavs. Manchester City (H) – Saturday September 30, 2017

   

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