Premier League | Turf Moor | Mon 18 Aug | 8pm
East Lancashire's finest return to the big time. First up? Everyone's favourites for the title.
- Burnley 3-1 Hellas Verona (F)
- Burnley 2-2 Celta Vigo (F)
- Blackpool 0-1 Burnley (F)
- Preston 2-1 Burnley (F)
- Accrington 0-1 Burnley (F)
- Chelsea 2-0 Real Sociedad (F)
- Ferencvaros 1-2 Chelsea (F)
- Besiktas 1-0 Chelsea (F)
- Fenerbahce 0-2 Chelsea (F)
- Werder Bremen 3-0 Chelsea (F)
“I like my squad very much," said Jose Mourinho on the eve of the new season. "I love the club because the club was fantastic and gave me the three targets I was asking for, in the left-back, a midfield player and a striker. In fact they gave me two strikers because Didier is also back. We have bought three people in Filipe Luis, Diego [Costa] and [Cesc] Fábregas, all in the best stage for a football player – between 25 and 30. They are three experienced players with the quality to strengthen immediately our team. The squad improves, for sure, and the team can show qualities on the pitch that in the past we didn’t."
Welcome back, Burnley!
The Lancastrian mill towners with a population smaller than Old Trafford's capacity are back in the Premier League after a four-year absence.
Sean Dyche is the new Owen Coyle, leader of the Burnley revolution, the Rinus Michels of the River Brun, and the Clarets' reward for amassing 93 points last season, eight clear of Derby in 3rd place, is a deserved return to top-flight football.
But it won't be easy. Of the three Chelsea players mentioned above, Diego Costa alone cost double the money in Burnley Council's entire annual budget - and even that is being cut by up to 31%.
By contrast to Chelsea's lavish spending, Burnley have spent roughly £3.5 million on six players - Michael Kightly, Marvin Sordell, Matt Gilks, Lukas Jutkiewicz, Matt Taylor and Steven Reid. Decent players but Premier League level? We're about to find out.
The biggest positive for Burnley is that in Dyche they have one of the country's most highly-rated young managers. As such, it's fitting that his first game as a top-flight gaffer seems him pit his wits against the Premier League's managerial Don Corleone - Mourinho. If Costa Rica taught us anything over the summer it's that fairytales can happen, but Costa Rica never had to face a squad worth upwards of £400m.
Are Chelsea going to win the Premier League? Ask around and 90% of people will say 'yes'. The Blues seem to be everyone's favourites to lift the title in Mourinho's second season back in charge after his backpacking trip around Europe.
And when you consider that they only finished four points behind 'runaway winners' Manchester City, conceding 10 less goals in the process with an obviously weaker squad (as Mourinho was not slow to point out), it's not hard to see why.
Every perceivable area that Chelsea needed strengthening has been - the signing of Fabregas, one of the best players in the Premier League era, the cherry atop an already appealing cake. Burnley are back in the big time but the uphill struggle to stick around starts now.
Ramires is suspended for Chelsea while returning hero Didier Drogba is a possible absentee with a knock, possibly picked up by all that hugging of well-wishing Blues fans. Sam Vokes is Burnley's only injury drama, with several players set to make their Premier League debuts.
Player to watch: Diego Costa (Chelsea)
The man who fired Atletico Madrid to the league title in Spain has been electric in pre-season since completing his £32m move to Stamford Bridge, scoring some classy goals. Chelsea fans have first-hand experience of the Spanizilian's talents: he's the man who helped Atleti knock Chelsea out of the Champions League in last season's semi-final, scoring a penalty at Stamford Bridge that effectively put the tie beyond Chelsea's reach.
A battering ram of a striker, it will be interesting to see how Costa adapts to the Premier League. The physical side of things should suit him, but as a man with a notoriously short temper he is prone to being wound up into a yellow (and sometimes red) card frenzy. Burnley will look to test this side of him on his debut.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Burnley 1-2 Chelsea (PL, Jan 10)
- Chelsea 3-0 Burnley (PL, Aug 09)
- Chelsea 1-1p Burnley (LC, Nov 08)
- Burnley 3-0 Chelsea (Div 2, Apr 83)
- Chelsea 2-1 Burnley (Div 2, Dec 82)
Ginger Mourinho meets actual Mourinho on Monday night as Kettering-born apprentice meets Portuguese master. Dyche has said his team are ready for the challenge. We shall see.
Facts and figures
- Jose Mourinho has seen Chelsea win on all 5 opening weekends that he has been manager.
- The Blues are unbeaten since 1998/99 on the opening day, winning 13 of 15 games (D2).
- Burnley allowed fewer shots on target against them than any other team in the Championship last season (159).
Chelsea too strong despite a hot atmosphere. 1-3.