Chelsea v Burnley preview: Eden Hazard misses out for champions
Last Updated: 12/08/17 2:06pm
Chelsea will be missing several key players when they start the defence of their Premier League title at home to Burnley on Saturday.
The Blues will be without injured trio Eden Hazard, Pedro and Tiemoue Bakayoko while Victor Moses is suspended and Diego Costa is in exile having been told he has no future under Antonio Conte.
Chelsea swept to the title last season with a league-record 30 wins, but it has not been smooth sailing since.
After losing the FA Cup final to Arsenal, they have had mixed pre-season results, lost in the Community Shield, again to Arsenal, and there have been reports that Conte has been frustrated by some of the club's transfer activity this summer.
But the Italian says he is looking forward to the new season: "It's a great challenge for us to try and retain the title and we are working hard. We want to be competitive and we want to fight for the title again."
Burnley, who have seen striker Andre Gray leave for Watford, finished 16th in the Premier League last season and did not win an away game until April 29.
Manager Sean Dyche hopes the Clarets do not have to wait so long for an away win this time, but acknowledges they face a challenge to improve on last season.
"It's just that win, if you get one win early doors it kills everything off," he said. "There's no grand statements from us. Are we looking to edge it forward? Yes. Is that the reality of our challenge? Yes. It's unlikely we're going to take huge jumps forward at a club like this.
"It's a continuation of the things you've seen over the last four years. How far can we continue to take it and adjust it along the way? That's the key, when to adjust it and how to adjust it. And now, it's virtually always down to finance. It's quite obviously not a level playing field."
Pedro picked up an ankle knock in last Sunday's Community Shield penalty shoot-out loss to Arsenal so misses out for Chelsea.
Moses is suspended following his dismissal in May's FA Cup final defeat to the Gunners while Costa, Hazard (broken ankle) and Bakayoko (knee) remain out.
James Tarkowski and Jon Walters are likely to start for Burnley, with Michael Keane and Gray both sold this summer.
Jack Cork is also pencilled in for a debut in midfield but Phil Bardsley is not fully match fit and may be made to wait.
Chelsea are unbeaten in their previous six Premier League meetings with Burnley (W4 D2 L0).
Chelsea have won more points on opening day than any other Premier League club (54).
In fact, the Blues have not lost an opening day Premier League fixture since 1998 v Coventry, going unbeaten in their last 18 games to start the season (W15 D3).
Just one of the previous 25 reigning Premier League champions have lost their opening game in the following season - Leicester City v Hull City in 2016 (W20 D4 L1).
Burnley have lost all three Premier League opening day fixtures, scoring just one goal in those three games.
Chelsea (183) have won more points in August than any other team in Premier League history (P85, W54, D21, L10).
Chelsea summer signing Alvaro Morata (27.3 per cent) had the highest conversion rate of any striker to score 10+ goals in La Liga last season, scoring 15 goals from 55 shots (inc. blocks).
I had a close eye on Chelsea in the Community Shield and what's clear is that they aren't the same team with Eden Hazard.
But Burnley at home on the opening day of the season is a nice game given the Clarets' poor away record.
PAUL PREDICTS: 3-1 (10/1 with Sky Bet)
Chelsea are the weekend's shortest-priced favourites at just 2/9 with Sky Bet as Burnley go up against odds of 14/1 to win and 9/2 just to hold out for a draw. The Blues are 7/2 to defend their title, level with Manchester United and behind Manchester City (13/8) in the outright betting, while their visitors are 11/10 second favourites to face the drop.
Michy Batshuayi heads the first goalscorer betting at 11/4 ahead of club-record signing Alvaro Morata (10/3), while Sam Vokes and Jon Walters are considered the visitors' main threats at 10/1 apiece.