Chelsea will not thank the fixture computer for throwing up this potential banana skin away to, newly promoted, Burnley on Monday evening. The Lancastrian’s will not roll over and I recall them beating Manchester United in their last forage in the top flight. That said, Chelsea have not lost an opening fixture since 1998 winning 13 of 15 matches. This is a real culture clash with the home manager Sean Dyche being named the ‘ginger Mourinho’ whilst Chelsea have the real deal in their dug out.
Both teams have had decent pre seasons with Burnley trashing Grossklein 8-0 in Austria and Chelsea with several comfortable victories including a dominating display in a 2-0 victory against Real Sociedad last Tuesday.
Burnley have no new injury worries and will be at full strength except for long term absentee Sam Vokes. The clarets will rely heavily on Danny Ings who scored 20+ last season. The problem for Dyche is that Ings and Vokes had a great partnership however Ings does not look as comfortable playing without Vokes. Burnley have signed seasoned professionals Matt Taylor, Steven Reid and Michael Knightly who will all start along with Lukas Jutkiewicz. They usually play 4-2-3-1 with Ings dropping in to midfield, when in transition.
Mourinho has given no hints for his first XI of the new campaign. The big talking point has been Cech or Courtois in goal. I believe Cech will start this one with Courtois making his top flight debut at Stamford Bridge. The other summer signings should all start with Costa leading the line. The expectation levels around the Blues has gone through the roof and indeed the bookies all make Chelsea early favourites for the title. I have seen nothing in the first weekend that will make the bookies re think their predictions.
Ramires is suspended for this one so Mourinho’s first XI will probably be Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry and Luis, behind Mikel and Matic, Hazard on the left, Willian on the right, with Fabregas behind the explosive Diego Costa. The ‘happy one’ has built a squad with real talent and strength in depth. The options available of the bench are truly exceptional and Chelsea fans are right to be filled with optimism expectation.
Chelsea will face tougher tests than this tricky opener but as they say ‘ take each game at a time’. Diego Costa looks a class act and with the supply lines from Fabregas, Hazard et al, he could be in for a very special season.