Premier League title holders suffered disastrous 3-2 defeat to Burnley at Stamford Bridge as cracks become more visible
CHELSEA kicked off their title defence with a wimper losing 2-3 at home to Burnley.
Leicester City are the only other champions in the Premier League era to lose their opening game – losing at Hull a year ago.
A second half rally only served to paper over the cracks that have been showing all summer.
And Antonio Conte knows the next few weeks are make or break for the rest of the campaign.
Despite shelling out £130million on new recruits, Chelsea, in August are down to the bare bones with a mere 14 fit senior players to chose from before the frist game of the season.
Dominic Solanke, Nathaniel Chalobah, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and more significantly Nemanja Matic wanted out of Stamford Bridge this summer, severely depleting the Blues squad.
The Community Shield programme showing the size of champions’ squad compared to Arsenal’s was a real eye opener for Blues fans.
The options available to Conte from the bench against the Clarets totally justified his complaints of having too few players for a title defence and Champions League tilt.
Conte and skipper Gary Cahill were bang on message at the Premier League launch on Wednesday when they both declared the champions squad was far too small.
Maybe the Italian was being cute handing 20-year-old Jeremie Boga his Premier League bow.
And with £60m Alvaro Morata the only player on the bench capable of changing the game, alarm bells will be ringing.
Conte denied after the Burnley loss he was sending a message to Roman Abramovich that he needed more players before the transfer window closes on August 31.
The visit to Wembley on next Sunday to face Tottenham was already a big game.
But the game takes on even bigger significance with the absence of suspended pair Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas.
Hazard is a huge miss and is some way off being fit, but there is a suggestion Tiomoue Bakayako can be thrown in against Spurs
The return of Victor Moses and possibly Pedro doesn’t address the issue of N’Golo Kante the only fit midfielder Conte has at his disposal, if Bakayoko doesn’t make it.
There’s talk of signing Leicester City’s Danny Drinkwater, but any club who hear Chelsea knocking will quickly pick up the scent of desperation as they scramble to add players before he window slams shut.
Spurs and Mauricio Pochettino will smell blood at Wembley and sense a real opportunity to plunge the champions into further crisis and inflict another loss, just like they did last season.
Conte’s men need a result, because this season has started even worse than the flawed title defence from two years ago under Jose Mourinho.