15:00 KO (BST); Saturday 12th August; Stamford Bridge (London, England)
Like every football fan across the world, Antonio Conte has stated that he wants to see his club sign more players before the end of the current transfer window.
With stories persisting about a behind-the-scenes power struggle between Conte and the board, Chelsea have quietly assembled a more robust squad than most people give them credit.
A bigger question is potentially how Conte handles the increased schedule after largely playing the same starting eleven through last season’s victorious campaign.
Sean Dyche is another manager who believes in keeping a sense of continuity with his squad selection, especially in defence. He too now has the challenge of managing a larger sized squad than the one he had at his disposal in May despite losing two key players to Premier League rivals.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Burnley remains their woeful away form, but with a trip to London and the home of the Champions providing their opening day fixture, few will be backing them to make an immediate improvement.
Last Time Out
Arsenal 1 – 1 CHELSEA [4-1 on penalties] (Community Shield)
A fractious game saw Chelsea finish the match with ten men after Pedro was dismissed for an ugly challenge in the 80th minute. With Sead Kolasinac drawing the game level for Arsenal soon afterward, the game was decided on penalties which the Gunners claimed following misses by Thibaut Courtois and Alvaro Morata.
A slow start by Chelsea gave way to a controlled performance from the Blues who looked the most likely to win prior to Pedro’s poor tackle.
Victor Moses goal at the start of the second half had deservedly put them into ascendancy, although Chelsea looked solid rather than inspiring throughout the afternoon.
With Eden Hazard missing from action, Michy Batshuayi looking ineffectual as a lone striker and Morata only entering the action as a 74th minute substitute, Willian’s lively performance was one of the few positives for Antonio Conte to take from their attacking threat.
This is Chelsea’s fourth consecutive Community Shield defeat, however, the important results are the ones which follow.
BURNLEY 1 – 0 Hannover 96 (match abandoned)
Burnley’s final preparations for the new season were thrown into disarray as crowd trouble flared in a match billed as a friendly encounter. The game was officially called off at half-time on advice from local police following a series of incidents involving the travelling Hannover supporters.
The match itself had been going well for the home side until a heavy challenge by Pirmin Schwegler saw Andre Gray lucky not to be shown a red card, grabbing the Swiss midfielder by the throat. Soon afterward, a section of the German supporters began throwing chairs and charging at the home fans despite an already increased police presence inside the ground.
On the pitch, Robbie Brady’s pinpoint cross was headed into the net by Ben Mee, however, events in the stands far overshadowed anything on the field of play.
Beyond this match, it’s been a relatively successful pre-season for Burnley. A battling 2-2 draw against Europa League semi-finalists, Celta Vigo, while Jeff Hendrick, Roby Brady, and Charlie Taylor have all shown good form.
Hopefully for the Clarets, this incident will not prove too costly in Dyche’s planning for the imminent campaign.
Pedro will not face a ban for his red card in the Community Shield, however, Victor Moses will be suspended following his red card in the FA Cup final. Eden Hazard (ankle) and Tiemoué Bakayoko (knee) will both miss the opening fixture through injury but otherwise, Conte will have a full squad to choose from.
With a fully fit first-team, this leaves questions regarding which of his new arrivals will feature from the first whistle, with Phil Bardsley and Charlie Taylor in defence and Jack Cork and Jon Walters joining the midfield.
Andre Gray’s £18.5m move to Watford will see Dyche play Sam Vokes and Ashley Barnes together up front for the Clarets as he shops for a suitable replacement, although Jon Walters recent form may see him used here.
Key Battle: Alvaro Morata vs James Tarkowski
Two important figures in this game and two players which could also prove pivotal in their respective team’s forthcoming campaigns will be directly against each other on Saturday.
Morata has not yet adjusted to his new surroundings but his £65m price tag will leave many people expecting him to deliver from the first whistle. While he is a completely different mould of player to Diego Costa, Morata will need to find a way to be just as effective in front of the opposition’s goal.
With the £30m departure of Michael Keane to Everton, many people have been decrying Burnley’s lack of investment in filling the void left in the squad. However, they already have a ready-made replacement in the shape of James Tarkowski, who fits naturally alongside Ben Mee in central defence. He will face the first of many tests this weekend though as he looks to halt the defending Champions in their own back yard.
Avoiding the favourites tag
Despite winning the league title only three months ago, Chelsea are not a popular choice in predicting who will lift the trophy this time around. While few teams manage to double-down on a league title, there are various contributing reasons as to why their stock has depreciated, but none of these factors are likely to unsettle the minds of their players or management in the build-up to this game.
It may also prove beneficial, as the pressure to perform is heaped on their rivals, similar to the way last season started out.
Burnley too have managed to slip the title of everyone’s first choice for relegation, despite arguably losing two of their three biggest stars. This is a huge compliment to the gravel-voiced ginger-Mourinho who has lead them to where they are now.
With an enviable home record and a team spirit which adds discipline and tenacity to his side’s performances, Dyche deserves as much praise as people pour on him. While he is a manager who is unlikely to put pride before a fall, he will again face a fight to prove that his side are not just one-season wonders.
An angry man
If there’s one thing that we all learned last season, it’s that Antonio Conte is an angry man. Whether he’s winning, losing or making a cup of tea, chances are he will be gesticulating and gnashing his teeth during the process.
His recent snappy attitude after the Community Shield defeat to Arsenal could well be a further sign of what is to come this season and after his settling in period, the Premier League’s chief firebrand could well find himself under increasing media scrutiny.
While this attitude helped to fire his charge to success last season, Conte will need to control and direct this aggression if he’s to avoid an implosion, something which Chelsea unexpectedly fell into after their previous title win.
Although he’s unlikely to change his style and bite his tongue, he will need to ensure that above all else, the mentality in the dressing room remains united and positive, but passion can often blur the edges when it comes to communicating a message, especially when it’s not in your native language.
Whatever transpires during the course of this year, it should make for some interesting entertainment during the months ahead.
From Chelsea to Burnley and back again
Jack Cork switched Swansea for the bright lights of Burnley in a deal which could rise to £10m.
After a low-profile summer, his competitive debut for the Clarets will be against his former club Chelsea, whom he was captain of for both their youth and reserves sides before a number of loans, including a brief move to Burnley, saw him move permanently to Southampton and then Swansea.
Within the Burnley midfield, Cork will have some stiff competition for places with several other players capable of playing in his position. As a player who enjoys controlling possession, he will bring a new dimension to Burnley and can be a calming influence on those around him.
He also offers Dyche some versatility in the middle of the pitch and is equally comfortable playing in a midfield two or three which should provide extra options to help avail the Clarets poor record on the road.
PREDICTION: Chelsea 1 – 0 Burnley
I actually think that Burnley will manage fine without two of their main players who have left for a combined total of around £50m.
While some of this is likely to be reinvested into their front-line, the current squad are still capable of putting up a good fight although I think Chelsea will be too powerful for them at Stamford Bridge and it will be a winning beginning for the Blues.
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?