On and off the field, nothing is going right for Chelsea early in its English Premier League title defense. Injuries to key players, frustration in the transfer market and now a surprise 3-2 home loss on the opening weekend of the season to Burnley, a team that was expected to be among the candidates for relegation.
After a dream start to life at Chelsea, manager Antonio Conte already looks to have a tough job on his hands in his second season in English soccer.
“I am not worried,” Conte said. “I am ready to fight with these players.”
They’ll need to, with title favorite Manchester City’s expensively assembled team starting with a comfortable 2-0 win at Brighton. Of other possible title contenders, Liverpool drew at Watford, 3-3, after Arsenal beat Leicester, 4-3, on Friday.
Boos greeted both the halftime and full-time whistles as Chelsea fans encountered the unusual feeling of a home loss under Conte after 17 wins in 19 league games at Stamford Bridge last season. The jeers were likely directed at the match officials, with Chelsea having a player sent off in both halves.
Gary Cahill was shown a straight red card in the 14th minute for a studs-first lunge, and Burnley capitalized by scoring three times before halftime through Sam Vokes (twice) and Stephen Ward.
Alvaro Morata, on his debut as a substitute, and David Luiz replied for Chelsea either side of Cesc Fabregas’ sending-off for a second booking in the 81st minute.
“After the red card, we lost our heads,” said Conte, who felt Cahill’s red card changed the game.
Two years ago, Chelsea drew with Swansea 2-2 at home in the first match of its league title defense and quickly unraveled. Manager Jose Mourinho lasted only 11 more league games. Last year, then-champion Leicester lost at Hull 2-1 in its first match and its fortunes improved only after manager Claudio Ranieri was fired.
There’s a chance it could get worse before it gets better for the current Chelsea team. Cahill, the captain, and…