Two good, two bad as Chelsea lose Premier League opener 3-2 to Burnley

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Chelsea’s Premier League title defence got off to a shocker as they fell to a 3-2 defeat to Burnley.

Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas were both sent off in either half as the champions fought back from 3-0 down to 3-2, ending the game with nine players.

Alvaro Morata and David Luiz got on the score sheet as the Blues dominated proceedings in the second period.

Here’s our two good, two bad from a thrilling encounter at Stamford Bridge.

TWO GOOD

SAM VOKES

The Welshman was in top form as he bagged a brace against the league winners in their own backyard. His strikes came on either side of a Steven Ward thumping effort.

Before he broke the deadlock, Vokes even had a header ruled out for offside after James Tarkowski was blown up for a foul leading up to it.

However, the striker did get on the score sheet when he steered in Matt Lowton’s cross. A couple of minutes before half-time, Steven Defour swung in a cross from a quick free-kick and Vokes was left completely unmarked to nod his effort past Thibaut Courtois.

Sam Vokes

Sam Vokes

ALVARO MORATA

Lacking a full preseason, Alvaro Morata began from the bench for Chelsea but made an instant impact when he was introduced in the 59th minute.

Ten minutes into his Chelsea debut, he pulled a goal back for the hosts, making it 3-1 with a fantastically timed run and glancing header from a Willian cross.

He found the back of the net shortly afterwards again but was denied by the linesman for offside. Despite losing Fabregas as well, Chelsea made it 3-2 when the former Real Madrid striker did well to flick on a header to put David Luiz clean through. The Brazilian took his chance well to set up a grandstand finish.

Alvaro Morata

Alvaro Morata

TWO NOT

DAVID LUIZ

While Gary Cahill is an easy target and did in fact do his side plenty of damage with his red card, it’s Luiz who then failed to assume responsibility in that back three.

The Brazilian defender was all over the place in defence when he needed to be leading it as its senior most member left on the pitch.

The third goal in particular was extremely disappointing on his part as he left Vokes completely unmarked right in front of the goal, bizarrely getting touch-tight to Antonio Rudiger instead.

He did score Chelsea’s second to make it a nail-biting finish, but it hardly compensated for his poor display at the back.

David Luiz

David Luiz

CESC FABREGAS

Given the chance to start while Tiemoue Bakayoko works his way to fitness, Fabregas didn’t do himself any favours.

In a game that required more muscle than skill to get to grips with proceedings, particularly after Cahill’s sending off, the Spaniard failed to take control of midfield.

His sarcastic clap earned him an unnecessary booking which proved costly when he received his second yellow card for a dangerous lunge on Cork.

Cesc Fabregas

Cesc Fabregas

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Chelsea boss Antonio Conte bemoans loss of composure in shock 3-2 defeat to Burnley

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Antonio Conte admitted the “two faces” of Chelsea were evident after the Premier League champions were humbled 3-2 by Burnley at Stamford Bridge.

Gary Cahill was sent off in the 14th minute by referee Craig Pawson for a high lunge at Steven Defour and Burnley responded by powering into a 3-0 lead with two goals from Sam Vokes and a Stephen Ward strike.

Chelsea fought back through Alvaro Morata and David Luiz, but Cesc Fabregas’ dismissal for two bookable offences disrupted their momentum in a second-half they dominated.

“The red card was a key moment. After that we lost our composure and conceded three goals,” Conte said.

“We have to improve a lot on this aspect because there was the rest of the game to try to do our best. We must have the right experience to face this situation.

“Instead we conceded three goals and in the second half it was very difficult to change the final result despite the great commitment, will and desire of my players.

“I’m very proud of my players, but in this game we saw two faces – the first half negative and the second half positive.

“In the second half we changed totally the situation and tried to attack in the right way.”

When asked if Pawson got the big decisions right, Conte replied: “Mmm…I prefer to not comment on the referee’s decision and performance.

“I think that the coach, the players and referee can make mistakes.”

Conte, who named £58million Spain striker Alvaro Mata on the bench, denied a suggestion that his team selection was a message to the board that he is disgruntled over Chelsea’s transfer activity this summer.

“In our pre-season, in every pre-season, I played our best formation and I did the same against Burnley. I picked the best players that we have at this moment,” Conte said.

“Why do I have to send a message? Why? I want to win. I wanted to win here, not to send a message.”

Burnley boss Sean Dyche praised Pawson’s officiating of the game, insisting he had performed well in difficult circumstances, and declared his team worthy winners.

“The sending off makes a big difference. I haven’t seen it but my staff tell me it’s the correct decision,” Dyche said.

“I thought the referee was really good. He had a tough game to handle and he did well overall. We responded to the sending off well.

“Overall we deserved it. They’re a top class side with some fantastic individuals. Losing 3-0 is not usual for them so they had to respond so credit to them for that.

“We were disappointed in the two goals conceded because before that we’d kept a really good shape and they didn’t have too many chances.

“It’s a big win for us because they’re a fine side. Even with 10 men they’re a very good team. They’re strong and physical.

“They opened up the pitch even more when they had 10 men which put us on the back foot a bit. I’m really pleased with our mentality.”

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Three ways Manchester United could line up in their Premier League opener

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Ahead of Manchester United’s Premier League opener on Sunday against West Ham United, Jose Mourinho has a selection conundrum – as well as one over his preferred formation.

Last year, United relied heavily on a 4-2-3-1, with there being a few occasions where Mourinho shuffled around his formation to suit specific games.

However, this season, the United manager has a few options for how he wants to set out his team.

3-4-3

Mourinho used this formation on occasion in preseason, after Chelsea made it popular during last season’s march to the title.

In a 3-4-3, Antonio Valencia would feature as the right wing-back, while the left wing-back role is up for grabs. Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo are injured, so it could be any of Jesse Lingard, Matteo Darmian, or Daley Blind playing on the left side.

Eric Bailly is the only guaranteed starter among the centre-backs and should be joined by two from Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and new signing Victor Lindelof. The Swede has had a few shaky moments in preseason so it’s possible that Jones and Smalling will get the nod.

Mourinho’s biggest conundrum in this formation would be who to leave out in midfield. Usually, Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba would be guaranteed starters, but new signing Nemanja Matic hasn’t been bought to sit on the bench. The likelihood is that Pogba and Herrera would get the nod to start the season, but Matic will come in for Herrera in certain games.

The biggest advantage of this formation would be up front, where Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan would flank £75 million striker Romelu Lukaku. Being able to get Rashford and Belgian on the pitch together was one of Mourinho’s biggest goals in preseason, and this was one of the ways he managed it.

3-5-2

Mourinho used this formation in the European Super Cup tie against Real Madrid, to mixed results. Lingard was played as the left wing-back but seemed to struggle in the role, and was taken off at half-time.

United also used the 3-5-2 in their famous 2-0 win over Chelsea last season, with Rashford and Lingard up front, so Mourinho knows how this formation can work in the Premier League.

If the Portuguese opts for this formation on Sunday, the personnel would largely be the same as in the aforementioned 3-4-3, with the difference likely being that all three central midfielders would get to play together.

However, this would also mean sacrificing one of Rashford or Mkhitaryan up front, assuming that Lukaku is a guaranteed starter.

4-3-3

This still seems the likeliest option given United’s personnel, and Mourinho used this formation quite often in preseason. Its effectiveness again lies in allowing Matic, Pogba, and Herrera to play together.

Valencia and Darmian will play on either side of the two centre-backs, likely to be Bailly and Jones on Saturday, while Pogba, Matic, and Herrera can play in midfield together.

Rashford, Lukaku, and Mkhitaryan will likely be the preferred front three.

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