Antonio Conte’s Chelsea side will get their 2017/18 Premier League campaign underway later today against Burnley at Stamford Bridge as they look to defend their title. Sean Dyche’s side will, without doubt, prove stern opposition to the Blues and they will have to be at the top of their game if they are to secure the three points and get off to the perfect start.
Chelsea suffered a disappointing defeat to rivals Arsenal last weekend in the Community Shield as they fell victim to the new ‘ABBA’ style penalty shootout. However, they did compete well throughout with Victor Moses giving them a second-half lead, and if Pedro had not got sent off late on, it could well have been a different outcome.
We take a look at who Conte could pick in his starting line-up for their Premier League opener.
Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois
The 25-year-old goalkeeper has been a vital player for the Blues over the last few years since he returned from his loan spell at Atletico Madrid and was a key component of the team that picked up the title last season.
He has made 108 appearances for Chelsea so far in all competitions and has virtually been ever present in Conte’s starting line-up. This is unlikely to change this season.
Right-Wing Back: Cesar Azpilicueta
The signing of the 27-year-old full-back from Marseille five years ago has turned into a superb piece of business by Chelsea. Azpilicueta has been rated highly by every manager Chelsea has had during this period but has really cemented his place in the team in the last two years.
He made 38 league appearances for the Blues last season which is the highest amount he has made since joining the club. He will be one of the first names on Conte’s team sheet against Burnley.
Centre-Back: Antonio Rudiger
The 24-year-old defender did not start last weekend against Arsenal but it would be no surprise to see Conte opt to include him in his starting line-up for this one. Chelsea paid a whopping initial fee of £34 million to secure his services from Serie A side, Roma earlier this summer and he is a player with huge potential. It will be interesting to see what kind of relationship he can build with David Luiz and Gary Cahill in the centre of defence.
Centre-Back: David Luiz
Many people were left stunned when Conte decided to bring the flamboyant defender back to Stamford Bridge last summer from Paris Saint-Germain, but it has since proved to be a superb decision. He has matured a lot since his last spell at the club and is now a well-rounded centre-half. His ability to play the ball out from the back makes him a vital component to Chelsea’s defence.
Centre-Back: Gary Cahill
In comparison to Luiz, Cahill is a very different centre-half, but it is good to have players with different strengths alongside each other. The 31-year-old could be classed as more of an ‘old-fashioned’ centre-half who will not take risks when playing it out from the back. However, he is capable of putting in some rock solid defensive performances as well as popping up with the odd vital goal.
Left-Wing Back: Marcus Alonso
When Chelsea signed the 26-year-old full-back from Serie A side Fiorentina last summer for a fee of around £24 million, it was seen by many as a bizarre signing. However, he quickly proved why he was worth that sort of money. His performances proved that he was one of the best full-backs in the division with his ability both defensively and offensively. He scored six goals for Chelsea in all competitions last season with many of these being from free-kicks.
Central Midfielder: N’Golo Kante
One player who is guaranteed to start the majority of Chelsea’s games this season, depending on fitness, is 26-year-old midfielder Kante. He joined the club from Leicester City last summer and has now won two consecutive Premier League titles.
This is no coincidence as he has also been named in the Professional Footballers’ Association Team of the Year for two consecutive years also. He is arguably the most important player for Conte’s side due to how he dominates the middle of the park.
Central Midfielder: Cesc Fabregas
Chelsea’s new midfield signing Tiemoue Bakayoko is unavailable for selection for today’s game due to injury meaning it is highly likely that the 30-year-old Spanish midfielder will get another chance to impress from the start.
There has been a lot of speculation about Fabregas’ future this summer, but if he can impress in the early stages of the season, he may still be able to force his way into Conte’s thoughts.
Left-Winger: Charly Musonda
The 20-year-old winger has not made a single appearance for Chelsea in the Premier League so far, but he may get a chance to impress in today’s game. His main experience so far has come on loan at Real Betis in La Liga so it will be interesting to see if he can deal with the demands of England’s top flight.
He has a great chance of starting today’s match due to injuries to both Pedro and Eden Hazard and also due to Moses’ suspension following his sending off in last season’s FA Cup final.
The 29-year-old Brazilian is the only other winger who is fit and available for this clash and is, therefore, an almost guaranteed starter. He did not start as many games as he would have liked last season under Conte, but this was mainly due to the impressive performances from both Hazard and Pedro.
However, due to a number of injuries to other players in his position, he has an opportunity to really try and cement his place in Conte’s starting line-up.
Striker: Alvaro Morata
It will be interesting to see who Conte opts for to start as his main striker in this one.
He started 23-year-old Michy Batshuayi last weekend in the Community Shield after he had impressed throughout pre-season.
However, he may opt for the club’s record signing in the form of Morata this time round. Morata has a lot of experience at the highest level and will be eager to get off the mark this afternoon against Burnley.