Getting the ball rolling

While the kick-off of the 2017/18 season is still a couple of months away, there was some reason to get excited this week when the fixture list for the upcoming the Premier League campaign was announced.

While there has been a fair amount of transfer gossip and speculation doing the rounds in the media, there hasn’t really been too much proper Chelsea news to whet our appetite since the players left for their summer breaks late last month.

So it was nice to finally have something tangible to pore over and analyse as we count down the days to the start of pre-season training for the Blues.

What then did we learn about the defence of our Premier League title which was won so impressively during Antonio Conte’s first season in charge at Stamford Bridge?

For starters, we kick-off our league campaign at home for the third straight year with a match against Burnley.

While the Clarets did pretty well last season to maintain their position in the top flight, it had little to do with their poor away form as they managed only seven points on the road with 14 of 19 games ending in defeat.

From there, the Blues have four of our first seven games against teams which finished in the top seven spots in the table last season.

There’s a first away match against last season’s runners-up Tottenham Hotspur, who will be settling into their temporary home at Wembley. Ironically, we would have played there just a fortnight earlier in the Community Shield, providing us with a bit more familiarity about the ground than our hosts.

The clash against Spurs is followed by a run of juicy home matches against Everton, Arsenal and Manchester City, who will all be determined to make a statement of intent against the defending champions after their underwhelming performances last season.

The Blues’ unexpected title success in 2016/17 will not have gone down well with the other top teams so we can expect a battle on our hands as we attempt to become the first club since 2009 to successfully defend the Premier League crown.

If we can come through those first seven matches with a decent number of points, then we should be in good shape to defend the title. Of course, Chelsea’s run to the title last season only began in earnest in our seventh game when we beat Hull City 2-0, but it would be astounding if the Blues were able to replicate the amazing 13-game winning streak which more or less settled last season’s championship race.

It’s going to be much tougher for Antonio Conte’s side to retain the title but hopefully they will be in a good position to do so by the time we make the long trip to the Northeast for our final game of the season at Newcastle United on 13 May.

That’s the hope anyway, even if there’s a lot of football to be played before we get to that point.