Chelsea's concerns mount with surprise loss to Burnley
By STEVE DOUGLAS
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 fulltime whistle 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 Fabregas join a lengthy absentee list for next weekend's away match at Tottenham, which was runner-up last season.
Eden Hazard, Pedro Rodriguez, and Tiemoue Bakayoko are injured, striker Diego Costa is estranged, and Conte has a threadbare squad after selling midfield anchorman Nemanja Matic to rival Manchester United and loaning out many of the club's youngsters.
There are three weeks left in the transfer window and Chelsea desperately needs reinforcements, with the Champions League also on the schedule.
Given Chelsea's selection problems, Conte must be envious of counterpart Pep Guardiola's options at Man City.
Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling, and Bernardo Silva - attacking midfielders costing a combined $175 million - came off the bench to help City clinch a 2-0 win at promoted side Brighton.
City needed to show patience, with Sergio Aguero breaking the deadlock in the 70th followed by an own goal from Lewis Dunk in the 75th.
City is most pundits' favorites to win the title now Guardiola has had a second offseason to refresh his squad.
The absence of unsettled playmaker Philippe Coutinho didn't stop the goals flowing for Liverpool in its opening match. The problem, as ever, came at the other end.
Liverpool conceded in second-half injury time to draw at Watford 3-3, exposing the defensive weaknesses that blighted the team's title challenge last season.
Two of Watford goals came from corners and the other from an attacking throw-in. Liverpool conceded 27 goals from set-pieces last season.
Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Mo Salah scored for Liverpool, which was without Coutinho amid interest in the playmaker from Barcelona. Liverpool said Coutinho was missing because of a back injury.
Few take notice of the standings in the first week. Still, the sight of Huddersfield in first place was something to behold.
Playing in the top flight for the first time in 45 years, Huddersfield beat Crystal Palace 3-0 away as record signing Steve Mounie scored twice in a dream start for the promoted club.
Huddersfield was English champion three years in a row from 1924. A relegation battle is likely to ensue in the coming months, but their fans will remember Week 1.
Nearly 5,000 days later, Wayne Rooney is back scoring in the blue of Everton.
Rooney marked his first league start for Everton since rejoining his boyhood team from Manchester United by netting in a 1-0 win over Stoke at Goodison Park.
He left Everton in 2004 as a precocious teenager. He returns as England's and United's record scorer, and with something to prove after spending most of last season on the substitutes' bench.
West Bromwich Albion beat Bournemouth 1-0 thanks to a goal on his debut by defender Ahmed Hegazi.
Southampton's run without a home goal extended to 545 minutes, dating to the end of last season, after a 0-0 draw with Swansea.
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80
Updated August 12, 2017