CHELSEA boss Antonio Conte is quickly discovering that it never rains – it pours. The Italian’s summer of discontent extended into the start of the Premier League season on Saturday with a 3-2 loss to Burnley.
However, far more damaging than defeat to Sean Dyche’s side were the red cards picked up by skipper Gary Cahill and midfielder Cesc Fabregas.
Already without Eden Hazard, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Pedro due to injury, Conte was forced to throw 20-year-old Jeremie Boga in for his first Premier League start.
But things went from bad to worse when Cahill was dismissed after just 14 minutes.
And with nine minutes left, and Chelsea trailing 3-1, Fabregas earned himself a second yellow to join Cahill in an early bath.
With rivals Spurs next up this Sunday, our friends at Football Whispers look at how the Blues could be forced to line up at Wembley.
Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois
The big Belgian stopper was left shellshocked at Stamford Bridge on Saturday as the Clarets took a 3-0 lead into the break.
However, Courtois is one of the Premier League’s finest keepers and in a defence which will continue to chop and change in the early weeks of the season, the 25-year-old will be one of few constants for Chelsea.
Centre-back: Cesar Azpilicueta
One bit of good news for the Blues is the return of Azpilicueta to centre-back. The versatile Spaniard was forced to fill in at right wing-back against the Clarets thanks to Victor Moses’ suspension.
But Moses will return at Spurs – ironically the venue at which he earned the red card which saw him miss Saturday’s game – freeing up Azpilicueta to play in the centre of defence once more.
Centre-back: David Luiz
The Brazilian defender, who gave Chelsea a glimmer of hope on Saturday by scoring a second in injury time, and should lead the Blues out at Wembley in Cahill’s absence.
Re-signed last summer after Chelsea missed out on Leonardo Bonucci, Luiz has matured immeasurably during his time away from Stamford Bridge and become a model of consistency at the heart of Conte’s defence.
Centre-back: Antonio Rudiger
The only one of Conte’s summer signings to start against Burnley on Saturday, the German international will get the nod once more following Cahill’s dismissal.
Part of Germany’s Confederations Cup-winning side, the former Roma man cost £29m from Roma this summer and will be Cahill’s long-term replacement in the side if all goes to plan.
Right wing-back: Victor Moses
The Nigerian wideman enjoyed a hugely impressive 2016/17 campaign having looked set to leave Stamford Bridge for good initially.
Sent out on loan to Liverpool, West Ham United and Stoke City in recent seasons, the former Crystal Palace and Wigan Athletic wideman reinvented himself as a flying wing-back and hasn’t looked back.
Central midfield: N’Golo Kante
Chelsea wasted no time in snapping up the former Leicester City midfielder last summer after he inspired the Foxes to a historic Premier League win against all the odds.
The diminutive midfielder had been playing semi-professionally just a few years earlier and his incredible rise continued with a second title at Chelsea and recognition from his peers as he won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year gong.
Central midfield: Charly Musonda
With Fabregas suspended and new-boy Bakayoko still recovering from a knee injury, Conte has a headache in the centre of midfield which Musonda could fill.
The Belgian, 20, was a late substitute against Burnley on Saturday and could make his first Premier League start alongside Kante. A Celtic transfer target earlier in the summer, it could be a baptism of fire for the former Real Betis loanee.
Left wing-back: Marcos Alonso
Earlier in the summer the Spaniard’s place in the side looked under threat with talk of Juventus’ Alex Sandro being a Chelsea transfer target.
But the Blues appear to have baulked at the asking price for the Brazilian, leaving Alonso a clear path to the first team. The former Sunderland and Bolton Wanderers defender deserves it, too, having been a vital part of the side since joining from Fiorentina last summer.
Attacking midfield: Willian
The Brazilian dazzled as Chelsea won the title in 2014/15 but struggled in Jose Mourinho’s disastrous final season at the club and found himself in and out of the side last year.
Luckily for the former Shakhtar Donetsk man, injuries to Hazard and Pedro have given him the chance to stake his claim for a spot in the side when the duo return. He will need to impress, though.
Attacking midfield: Jeremie Boga
The 20-year-old Ivorian was the shock inclusion in Conte’s starting XI on Saturday after it became apparent Pedro was not fit to start the Premier League opener.
But the diminutive midfielder, who spent last term on loan at Granada in La Liga, was sacrificed early on when Cahill saw red. Unless Pedro is fit once more, the Marseille native should get the nod again.
Striker: Alvaro Morata
The former Real Madrid and Juventus man had to settle for a place on the bench against Burnley but came on with 31 minutes remaining.
And having marked his La Liga and Serie A debuts with a goal, he repeated the feat by powering home a diving header ten minutes after his introduction. He should start ahead of Michy Batshuayi on Sunday.
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