Burnley storms stamford bridge as chelsea begins title defense - Full Gist NG


Saturday, 12 August 2017

Burnley storms stamford bridge as chelsea begins title defense

Burnley storms stamford bridge as chelsea begins title defense

Burnley FC heads to the Stamford Bridge today with an intent to checkmate reigning English Premier League champions Chelsea on their opening fixture. Antonio Conte has spent the summer bemoaning the lack of money spent by his team in the summer transfer market, fretting about the lack of players he needs to be successful both in the Premier League and the Champions League and wondering where his sources of offence are.

Now imagine how much more intense those cries would be had Conte not won the Premier League title in his first season with Chelsea.

The reigning title-holders begin their season today in a state of flux as they host Burnley at Stamford Bridge.

Conte’s first season on the London touchline turned into stardust as Chelsea (30-3-5) rocketed from 10th during their shambolic title defense in the 2015-16 season to back atop the table for the second time in three years. The Italian had the luxury of not worrying about any European competition, and he was able to keep his squad fresh as Chelsea were eliminated in the fourth round of the EFL Cup and reached the final of the FA Cup.

This time around, the Champions League beckons.

Conte has been vocal on repeated occasions he wanted to aggressively spend this summer to keep up with the football powers both in England and Europe, the Manchesters, the Barcelonas, the PSGs of the world, yet there has been little splash aside from the £70 million for Alvaro Morata of Real Madrid and the combined £60 million for Monaco’s Tiemoue Bakayoko and AS Roma’s Antonio Rudinger.

“Last season we played many matches but we were able to rest a lot between games,” defender David Luiz said. “This season we will be playing midweek and then again at the weekend, so it’s more about the rest and rotating the team because some players will play in the Premier League, and then others will play in the Champions League, it’s more about the squad.”

The lack of depth was further exposed when midfielder Nemanja Matic, a key player in Conte’s 3-5-2 formation last season that changed the complexion of the Premier League, shockingly left last month to rejoin former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho at Manchester United for £40 million.

“Matic knows very well what I think of him,” Conte told Sky Sports. “The importance for me about this player, who is a really good player, a top player, very important for our team, but sometimes you must accept this crazy transfer market.

“But he is a great loss for us.”

The problem up front was in part exacerbated by Conte, who told Diego Costa his services were no longer wanted at Chelsea shortly after last season ended. Love him, hate him or otherwise given his pantomime villain routine on the pitch, Costa scored a team-high 20 goals in league play to help Chelsea win the title and is now content to bide his time at Cobham waiting out Atletico Madrid’s transfer ban that ends in January.

His absence is a glaring void that needs to be filled, the sooner, the better. And while Morata had 20 goals in all competitions for the Champions League winners, leading the line in London will be a tall order for the 24-year-old, perhaps more so since Conte and Chelsea were gazumped by Mourinho and United for top target Romelu Lukaku.

Some of Chelsea’s growing pains were apparent Sunday when they lost the Community Shield match to Arsenal on penalties at Wembley. Morata was a late substitute, while starting forward Michy Batshauayi failed to impress. Though still an impressive distributor of the ball, Cesc Fabregas lacked pace at times and left N’Golo Kante with far too much clean-up work to do in front of the defence.

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