Premier League preview: Can Chelsea retain their crown?

The Blues won the title at a canter last season, but there's an air of trepidation at Stamford Bridge this summer

Antonio Conte Chelsea - Premier League trophy
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte kisses the Premier League trophy
(Image credit: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)

Chelsea are the defending Premier League champions but few people expect them to retain their crown this season.

After a mixed summer, what are the factors that will determine Chelsea's chances this season?

Transfer trouble:

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Chelsea have signed some big names this summer, with Alvaro Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Antonio Rudiger strengthening the squad. But that doesn't give the whole picture and manager Antonio Conte is unlikely to be happy with his summer's work.

"While an outlay of around £120m so far suggests the champions have seriously backed their man, on closer examination the Blues have recouped almost as much in sales and failed to address a glaringly obvious needed-for depth," says the Daily Mirror.

As significant as the new arrivals are the failure to land Romelu Lukaku and the ongoing messy divorce with Diego Costa, not to mention the departure of Nemanja Matic. Indeed more than 20 players have left the club and the champions, who have a European campaign to consider, will quickly be down to the bare bones if there is any kind of injury crisis at Stamford Bridge next season.

"It has been a summer of familiar, relentless headlines: of Conte's discontent, frustration and barely concealed anger over the club's transfer dealings; of missed targets; lack of spending; lack of numbers," says Jason Burt of the Daily Telegraph.

Planning problems:

"The manager may have sported that familiar disarming smile from Beijing to Singapore but planning for the campaign ahead has been far from straightforward," says Dominic Fifield in The Guardian.

Conte faces new challenges this season.

"The return to European football, while welcome, will stretch the squad and other teams now have experience of playing against Chelsea's system," says BT Sport.

Eden Hazard is the heartbeat of the team and will miss the opening weeks of the season with an ankle injury. Up front he is relying on Michy Batshuayi, who barely got a look in last season, and Alvaro Morata who is unproven in the Premier League.

Reasons to be cheerful:

Chelsea won the league at a canter last season, finishing 15 points ahead of Man City in third, so the onus is on their rivals to catch up.

"We've seen Juventus keep their thirst for success under the Italian, and this lack of complacency could ensure they do not derail in the manner they did under Mourinho," adds the Daily Mirror. "Rivals have gradually figured out the 3-4-3, but Bakayoko, once fully fit, and N'Golo Kante represent a formidable base to the midfield."


Few people expect them to win for a second year running, but Paul Merson of Sky Sports predicts they will reach second place.

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