Premier League betting favourites Chelsea kick off the defence of their title at home to Swansea City in Saturday’s evening game at Stamford Bridge.
31 points separated these two teams last season, whilst Chelsea were 4-2 winners in this fixture early last season before thrashing the Swans 5-0 in Wales back in January.
Diego Costa scored five of those nine goals versus Swansea last season but the Spanish international did miss last weekend’s FA Community Shield with a hamstring injury picked up little more than a week ago. He’s a slight doubt for the season opener.
Whilst the Blues have been quiet in the transfer window, Garry Monk has been a little busier, bringing in goalkeeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt, defender Franck Tabanou, forward André Ayew and striker Éder.
As mentioned above, Diego Costa is listed as a slight doubt. Should he not be fit, Loïc Rémy or Radamel Falcao would likely play up front, though both looked lost versus Arsenal on Sunday.
José Mourinho was blessed with a healthy squad last season and he looks set to start the new campaign in the same fashion as it’s only his star striker whom there are any question marks over.
Garry Monk too starts the season with virtually a clean bill of health – there’s only a little doubt over centre-back Jordi Amat and nothing else to worry about in terms of absentees.
No changes from José Mourinho’s preferred XI from last season as far as we’re concerned. Diego Costa’s fitness could change that but any other changes from this lineup would come as a surprise.
Swansea City could hand a couple of debuts this weekend – we’re going with both Franck Tabanou and André Ayew to line up down the left-hand side for the visitors. Garry Monk’s side have a lot of excitement going forward – Ayew, Gylfi Sigurðsson and Nathan Dyer all starting behind sole striker Bafétimbi Gomis. We haven’t even found a place for Jefferson Montero either. Jonjo Shelvey may miss out due to his poor discipline both tactically and in the challenges – we know how Mourinho is good at getting his players to wind up the opponents’ hot heads.
Diego Costa vs Federico Fernández
Swansea’s Argentine centre-back failed to deal with Diego Costa as he scored twice in the 5-0 thumping the Blues handed the home side at the Liberty Stadium back in January. In the first meeting between these two last season, the Spaniard netted a hat-trick with Jordi Amat having a nightmare alongside Ashley Williams. Fortunately for Garry Monk’s side on Saturday is that Costa has had a little injury in the run-up to this match and surely he won’t be firing on all cylinders… will he?
Eden Hazard vs Kyle Naughton
He’s going to be the key man for many of Chelsea’s matches this season and the opener versus Swansea is no exception. Eden Hazard should have the beating of Kyle Naughton down that right with his dribbling. Amamzingly, the Belgian superstar wasn’t involved in any of the nine goals Chelsea put past Swansea last season, but he’ll be involved in the thick of play for sure.
Cesc Fàbregas vs Jack Cork
When Cesc Fàbregas starts alongside Nemanja Matić, it means José Mourinho wants to take the game to the opposition. That’s exactly how we see his side starting the season. Look for the Spaniard to pull the strings in the middle of the pitch as Chelsea create the most chances and score the most goals in this game. Sure, they’ve had a poor pre-season and lost the Community Shield – but this is where it gets serious and their record over their opponents from last season suggests they’re picking up three points on matchday 1.
23 – The defending Premier League champions have never lost the opening game the following season (20 wins, 3 draws).
25% – Five of Diego Costa’s 20 Premier League goals last season came against Swansea City.
100% – Chelsea have won all four previous Premier League matches versus Swansea at Stamford Bridge, scoring 11 goals in the process.