Title chasing Chelsea travel to Lancashire on Monday night to take on newly promoted Burnley at the Turf Moor Stadium in the opening match of their 2014/15 season. The last time these two sides met was back in 2010, where the Blues won 2-1 thanks to a late goal by John Terry. The Special One will be hell-bent on securing some sort of silverware this season after finishing last term with an empty trophy cabinet, while Burnley’s main objective will be mere survival in the ruthless Barclay’s Premier League.
To Win (90mins)
One of the Football League’s founding members, the Clarets returned to the top flight after a successful 2013/14 campaign which saw Sean Dyche secure promotion via a second-place finish. Dyche’s newly promoted side will be hoping to get off to a strong start as they bid to beat the drop and stay in the English top flight. Burnley will be beginning only their second-ever Premier League season after a magnificent Championship campaign. The Clarets have a decent record against the Blues but it stretches all the way back to the 1950s. A lot has changed since then, with their opponents winning every possible trophy in recent years. Dyche has made a lot of changes to his squad with new additions— Matt Gilks, Steven Reid, Marvin Sordell, Lukas Jutkiewicz, Michael Kightly and Matt Taylor. Nicknamed the ‘Ginger Mourinho’, 42-year-old Dyche was instrumental in the Clarets’ push towards the Premier League last term and his philosophy and subtle approach to man management could inspire further success as they start plying their trade in the ‘Promised Land’. After all, a team that’s motivated and hard-working from the off already have an advantage in the battle for survival. The man to watch will be last season’s leading goalscorer Danny Ings. His 21 goals in the Championship is a major reason as to why the club are now back in the Premier League. Ings will need help though, and that is something that Dyche seems to be only too aware of, having signed Sordell from Bolton Wanderers. Sam Vokes and Ashley Barnes are also a part of the squad already, but none of that quartet have much Premier League experience to call upon.
Chelsea will be hoping to start their campaign with a good result against the newcomers as their quest to be crowned champions begins. Jose Mourinho’s side look a different team to the one that finished third last season, losing the league title to Manchester City. Despite beating City and runners-up Liverpool home and away last season, the Blues let themselves down when coming up against the smaller sides in the league and will not want to underestimate their opponents this term. Mourinho has made some critical signings and offloaded a few players, including veteran duo Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole. New signing Diego Costa has looked sharp in pre-season, scoring two goals with two assists in five matches (where he is yet to complete 90 minutes due to pre-season squad rotation) and will be looking to score the goals that matter most. The Spaniard scored 36 in all competitions last season for Atletico Madrid with 27 of them coming in the league, the same amount of league goals as Chelsea forwards Fernando Torres, Demba Ba (sold), Andre Schurrle & Samuel Eto’o (released) combined, proving to be lethal in front of goal. He’s unshakably energetic, unashamedly physical and never one to shirk a challenge. At first glance, his game looks absolutely tailor made for the robust requirements of the English game.
Cesc Fabregas’ balance of directness and creativity makes him a key element in Mourinho’s side. Despite a comparatively down-year with Barcelona last season, Fabregas still scored thirteen goals with thirteen assists to his name and has already scored twice for Chelsea in pre-season. He will thrive on the movement of Costa and will look to find his national teammate with the killer pass as witnessed in pre-season. Also making his competitive debut is Brazilian left-back Filipe Luis, who like Costa, was signed from Atletico Madrid. The saying is never go back but Didier Drogba is set to put that theory to the test after returning to Chelsea on a one-year contract. The Ivorian is still a formidable opponent for defenders and remains physically indomitable but will likely find a place on the bench. Ramires will miss the match following the four-game suspension he received last season but after already serving three games, the Brazilian will be back for Chelsea’s next match at Stamford Bridge against Leicester City.
VERDICT: Chelsea 4/10
Jose Mourinho’s side will be pleased to be facing newly promoted Burnley in their opening match of the 2014/15 season. The Blues have won eleven of their last twelve opening fixtures in the Premier League, last losing one in 1998 (vs Coventry). Chelsea have plenty of firepower to demolish the Clarets, however the latter will be psyched up just to be back in the Premier League scene. Chelsea’s attack should be potent with Costa in the mix. Putting him up top in front of an attacking midfield trio that will contain three of Eden Hazard, Fabregas, Schurrle, Oscar or Willian is good enough to beat the newly promoted side. Chelsea are tipped at 4/10.