CHELSEA begin their Premier League title defence with a visit from Sean Dyche’s Burnley on Saturday.
The title holders traditionally open the new campaign but with Arsenal and Leicester facing off on Friday, Saturday’s game at Stamford Bridge won’t take centre stage.
It has been a summer of frustration for Blues boss Antonio Conte who has seen just three major arrivals: Antonio Rudiger, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Alvaro Morata.
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But questions still remain over the future of Atletico Madrid transfer target Diego Costa and the depth of Chelsea’s squad, which isn’t helped by injuries to Eden Hazard and Bakayoko.
At Turf Moor there will be concerns, too, following the departures of Michael Keane to Everton and Andre Gray to Watford.
Those deals made the Clarets nearly £50m but able replacements are yet to join.
Our friends at Football Whispers provide you with the ultimate companion for the game at Stamford Bridge.
Key battle: Alvaro Morata v Tom Heaton
THE £65m Chelsea paid to sign Morata from Real Madrid means the Blues have finally have a new record signing, consigning the £50m spent on Fernando Torres to history.
Last season the Spanish international scored 20 goals in all competitions, 15 of them coming from just 14 La Liga starts.
However, that strike rate gave him a goal every 88.6 minutes in the league, far better than Cristiano Ronaldo (101.76), Karim Benzema (174) and Gareth Bale (203.5).
Morata, who made his debut in last Sunday’s Community Shield final against Arsenal, will come up against Tom Heaton in the Burnley goal.
The England international was one of the Premier League’s best last season and made 151 saves – more than any other keeper, including Jordan Pickford who was between the sticks for bottom side Sunderland.
Heaton, 31, faced 199 shots in the Premier League last term, giving him a hugely impressive save ratio of 75.8 per cent.
The Burnley skipper will have to be at his best on Saturday and throughout the season.
Potential match winners
DESPITE the never-ending Diego Costa saga, Chelsea’s side is packed with match winners.
Morata should get the nod ahead of Michy Batshuayi up front and will be hoping to open his account against the Clarets.
If the former Juventus forward can’t find the breakthrough then the Blues will look to the two players set to start behind him: Pedro and Willian.
Former Barcelona man Pedro thrived last season, scoring nine and assisting the same number.
The 30-year-old has endured a tough pre-season, suffering a facial fracture against Arsenal in pre-season before seeing red against the Gunners at Wembley.
But he was back to his best last term.
Willian found his role in the side reduced thanks to Pedro’s improvement but the Brazilian will start at Stamford Bridge due to Eden Hazard’s ankle fracture.
The onus is on the winger – who attempted just 1.5 key passes, 1.5 dribbles and 1.3 shots per game last term – to lay down a marker.
In the Burnley camp, summer signing Walters will be one of the visitors’ biggest threats.
The 33-year-old scored 43 league goals in seven seasons at Stoke – more often than not from wide positions.
On the other flank, fellow Irish cap Robbie Brady will be a menace from set pieces.
The January signing scored his first Burnley goal from a free-kick in a 1-1 draw against Chelsea at Turf Moor… Conte and Co have been warned.
CHELSEA will be expected to swat the Clarets aside to get their title defence up and running in the most convincing manner possible.
But Burnley boss Dyche won’t allow for that and will set his side up to be rigid, defensively organised and disciplined.
The Clarets pride themselves on being hard to break down first and foremost before hitting teams on the break.
The loss of the pacy Gray will, therefore, be a blow.
Chelsea will play on the front foot and utilise their extra width. However, Cesar Azpilicueta will be out of position at wing-back and Burnley could exploit that.
CONTE is without new signing Bakayoko due to a knee injury which prevented him from playing any part in pre-season.
That will mean a start for Cesc Fabregas alongside PFA Player of the Year N’Golo Kante.
Victor Moses is suspended following his red card in last season’s FA Cup final. That should mean Azpilicueta moving to right wing-back and new-boy Rudiger coming in at centre half.
Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Courtois, Rudiger, Luiz, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso, Pedro, Willian, Morata.
The £18.5million sale of Gray to Watford earlier this week leaves Burnley light up front.
But Dyche was unlikely to play two strikers at Stamford Bridge, meaning Ashley Westwood could play off Sam Vokes.
Jonathan Walters is another alternative with Johann Berg Gudmundsson able to fill in down the right.
Burnley (4-4-1-1): Heaton, Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Ward, Walters, Cork, Hendrick, Brady, Westwood, Vokes.
THE stats do not offer Burnley much hope.
The Clarets, beaten 3-0 at Stamford Bridge last term, have not won at the home of the champions since March 1971 when they left West London 1-0 victors.
Chelsea, meanwhile, have not lost on the opening day of the season since August 1998 when they were beaten 2-1 at Coventry City.
Furthermore, Chelsea’s home form last season was second only to Tottenham’s. The Blues were undone just twice at Stamford Bridge.
Burnley, meanwhile, had the league’s worst away record.
Their only away victory came at Crystal Palace in April, 2-0 in their penultimate fixture on the road.
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