After a bitterly disappointing last season that saw Chelsea finish 10th in the Premier League, all eyes are on this season to see if they can bounce back to their brilliant best and challenge for top honours once again.
Bovada are one sportsbook that believe The Blues will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season, pricing Chelsea as +550 (6.5) third favourites for the league title, and -200 (1.50) to finish in a top-four place, meaning a return to Champions League football next season.
The appointment of Antonio Conte as manager is a shrewd one. The Italian showed during the 2016 European Championships, particularly in italy’s game against Belgium, that he knows how to set up a team to combat his opponents’ strengths and understands how to create a defensively solid team equipped with a devastating counterattack. .
Conte knows Chelsea’s defence, which conceded 53 goals (the 13th worst in the Premier League last season), is not going to be good enough to mount a serious challenge.
The £30 million signing of Leicester City’s N’Golo Kante should help the goals against figure drop dramatically. He breaks up countless attacks and made the most tackles of any Premier League midfielder during Leicester’s title winning campaign. He can also spearhead a counterattack in an instant.
Chelsea haven’t had such a player since Claude Makalele left for Paris Saint-Germain in 2008, and Kante’s presence in the middle of the park should give Cesc Fabregas more freedom to split opposition defences with the pinpoint passes he is renowned for.
Conte’s other major signing, Belgium’s talented youngster Michy Batshuayi for £33.2 million from French outfit Marseille, is yet another astute acquisition.
Batshuayi bagged 39 goals in 97 appearances for Standard Liege, before scoring 26 times in 62 games for Marseille; he also has three goals in seven games for the Belgium national side.
While question marks will remain above Batshuayi until he has a few Premier League games under his belt, Bovada price him as the +2000 (21.0) to be the Premier League’s top scorer come the end of the season.
Chelsea needs to tie Diego Costa down sooner rather than later. Or let him go. Speculation about the Spaniard’s future has been rife during the summer months, with Conte admitting that he is not 100% sure where Costa’s loyalties lie.
If Costa finds himself in disciplinary trouble again this season, we could see him return to Spain in the January transfer window, meaning Conte will have to ask for more funds to bring in another frontman to replace the 32 goals in 54 games that Costa has bagged.
Incidentally, Costa is priced shorter than his strike partner, Batshuayi, to be the Premier League’s top scorer in 2016-17. Odds of +1600 (17.0) are available on Costa winning the Golden Boot.
Expecting Conte to win the Premier League at the first asking does seem like a tall ask, although the +550 (6.5) odds do look tempting, as do the -200 (1.5) odds on a Chelsea top-four finish, the latter being what our money will likely be going on this season.
If Chelsea starts well and their new signings gel quickly, the Blues have the ability to take down both Manchester sides and bring the title back to Stamford Bridge.