Chelsea vs Swansea | Saturday 08 August | Stamford Bridge | 18:30
Reigning Premier League champions Chelsea will begin their title defence with the visit of Swansea to Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon. The Swans will be hoping to record another major upset having beaten Manchester United on the opening day of the 2014/15 season. However, they’ll have to be at their best to get a result at the Bridge. The last time these sides met it ended in a 5-0 humiliation for the Swans and that was in front of their own fans.
To Win (90mins)
Chelsea suffered a 1-0 defeat against Arsenal in the curtain-raiser to the new season last weekend but the Blues won’t be too bothered as it has no bearing on their title and this is where the real action begins. The Premier League champions will want to kick-start their title defence with a win at home considering that they will play Manchester City in their second match of the season. The Blues are strong at home and last season they managed fifteen wins and four draws from their nineteen home games – the only team without a defeat on their turf. Chelsea pulled off an impressive league double against Swansea last season winning 4-2 at Stamford Bridge and 5-0 at the Liberty Stadium. Chelsea haven’t been very active in the transfer market but it’s not like they really needed to as the Blues still possess firepower all over the pitch. The Blues have added Radamel Falcao and Asmir Begovic to make an already strong squad that bit stronger. Cesc Fabregas was the star of the early show for the Blues in 2014/15 and he’ll undoubtedly be looking to get started in style this time around. The Spaniard likes to float around the pitch, collecting the ball in various parts of the pitch and linking play, sewing together the disparate parts of Chelsea’s team. When given time and space on the ball, he can produce in any given moment and Swansea will need to mark him tightly.
The danger man in the team is undoubtedly Eden Hazard. The Belgian’s pace and flair on the wing proved an unstoppable combination for even the best defences. He possesses the ability and slight-of-foot to first shift his marker in the wrong direction, before speeding off in the opposite direction leaving an embarrassed opponent in his wake. He should be a nuisance against Swansea with his movement and trickery. Diego Costa remains the biggest injury (hamstring) concern for Chelsea and even if he’s passed fit, with a trip to the Etihad in mind, he could be on the bench with Falcao expected to take his place. The Colombian had a disappointing spell at Manchester United last season, scoring just four times with four assists in fourteen starts, but Mourinho is confident he can put him back on the pedestal that once saw him lauded as the best striker in the world. Falcao thrives on service into the box and will have some of the best providers in the business.
Garry Monk's men head into the new campaign on the back of their highest ever Premier League finish. The Swans ended the 2014/15 season with fourteen more points than the previous campaign, finishing in eighth position. It was an excellent season but there is always room for improvement and Monk will want to lead his side into a European place this season. Failing to win away at sides cost them some valuable points last season and the Swans will need to be more effective on their travels. Swansea have a habit of spoiling opening-fixture parties with their 2-1 victory at Old Trafford last term getting Louis van Gaal’s tenure off to a nightmare start. But for Chelsea, there is no place like home and any team will need to be at their high-octane best to leave the Bridge with a point, yet alone three. However, Swansea did manage to win there in the Capital One Cup back in 2013, by a 2-0 score line.
Monk’s spirited side are certainly not to be taken lightly and his philosophy will be to go all-out attack instead of waiting for the Blues to come at them. Monk has a stronger looking squad than ever before and faces a tough task fitting all of the quality at his disposal into one team. The cast of stars bought in this transfer market are Ghana international Andre Ayew, Swedish goalkeeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt, French left-back Franck Tabanou and Portugal striker Eder. The pace of Jefferson Montero and Ayew should strike fear into full-backs up and down the top-flight and add that extra bit of speed that can make Swansea such an attacking force. The Swans will be relying on Gylfi Sigurdsson to be their main source of creativity in midfield and the man they look to provide that killer pass for target man Bafetimbi Gomis.
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VERDICT: Chelsea 7/20
Chelsea are overwhelming favourites to breeze past the Swans having won the previous five meetings. The Blues went the whole of last season unbeaten on their turf and that doesn’t look like changing here. Chelsea are a banker bet at 7/20 but if you’re looking for more value I’d recommend taking them to win by three or more goals at 26/10 considering the fact that their last two encounters against Swansea have ended in 4-2 and 5-0 wins. Chelsea destroyed Swansea by a combined score of 9-2 in their two league meetings last campaign. The Blues should win the match quite comfortably.