Chelsea Will Need Conte's Best in Premier League Title Defence

The Premier League title has not been successfully defended since the 2008-09 campaign, when Manchester United, under the tenure of Sir Alex Ferguson, secured their 18th crown.
Chelsea won the first of their five titles in the 2004-05 season and were able to lift the crown for the second season on the bounce the following term, as Jose Mourinho enjoyed an outstanding start to his reign at Stamford Bridge.

The Portuguese had unfinished business with the Blues as his first spell ended due to a disagreement with owner Roman Abramovich, and ultimately made his return to the club in the 2013-14 term. By his second season back in the dugout, Chelsea were champions once again.

However, their defence of the crown could not have been more disastrous. Mourinho became involved in a row with club doctor Eva Carneiro in the opening match of the new term, while the incident served as a distraction that caused a horrendous run of form, culminating in his exit.

After Guus Hiddink steadied the ship, Antonio Conte arrived as the Portuguese’s permanent replacement and enjoyed just as strong a season as Mourinho in his first year in England.

Chelsea won the title with relative ease, overcoming a difficult start to triumph comfortably to notch their fifth crown in 14 years.

Speculation surrounding the future of Diego Costa has threatened to kick off Chelsea’s defence on a low note, while Conte has reportedly grown frustrated by the club’s business in the transfer market this summer.

He has missed out on the signature of Romelu Lukaku, although the Blues did secure the signing of Alvaro Morata, along with Tiemoue Bakayoko and Antonio Rudiger.

However, the departures of John Terry and Nemanja Matic have robbed Conte of experience, with the latter joining Mourinho at Manchester United.

The moves made by the Red Devils along with Manchester City have put pressure on Chelsea at the top – with the Blues backed in the latest football betting odds at 7/2 to retain their crown.

Both Manchester teams have made serious strides to bridge the gap from last term, when they were well off the pace of Conte’s men. As a result, the title race this year promises to be one of the most competitive in the history of the Premier League.

The Italian has known nothing other than success during his recent domestic managerial career with Juventus and the Blues, but could face his biggest challenge to date to keep his side at the top of the league.

Eden Hazard’s injury from the summer is likely to rule him out for the rest of the term, while Costa’s situation leaves their front line short on goals, especially if Morata is unable to hit the ground running in England.

Chelsea have kept their rearguard intact, with Gary Cahill and David Luiz poised to continue as part of a back three alongside Cesar Azpilicueta, despite the signing of Rudiger. Only United and Tottenham had a stronger defensive record than the Blues last year, and they will need to rely on their back line even more should their attack take time to bed into the new campaign.

There’s still time for the Blues to bolster their squad in the transfer market, but as it stands they will need Conte at his best to maximise the team’s talents.

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