History is smiling on Chelsea as Jose Mourinho’s men prepare to begin their title defence at home to Swansea City on Saturday.
In 23 Premier League seasons, the previous campaign’s champions have never lost their opening game – winning 20 and drawing three – and Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 16 curtain-raisers.
Chelsea, who lost last weekend’s Community Shield to Arsenal, have also never been beaten by Swansea in the Premier League, winning all four encounters at home and claiming a 5-0 triumph when these sides last met in south Wales in January.
Asked whether that thumping – which came after a 4-2 setback at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season – would have any bearing on this weekend’s opener, Swansea boss Garry Monk commented: “No, we played at home. Down there we were excellent for 45 minutes and, if we can produce 90 minutes like that, it will be great.
“It’s a fresh start, we want to improve on the good things we did last year.
“It doesn’t come any tougher – the champions, who set the standard and kept their team together. It’s a challenge to relish, to put on a good performance and take it forward.”
Aside from the departures of Petr Cech, Filipe Luis and Didier Drogba, Chelsea have managed to keep their title-winning squad together during the close-season, while also signing goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and recruiting striker Radamel Falcao on loan from Monaco.
And Falcao is well aware of the dangers posed by clubs such as Swansea, who saw Chelsea account for 18 per cent of their total league goals conceded last season (nine out of 49).
“It’s a very, very competitive league where each team gives absolutely everything they’ve got in every game they play,” he told Chelsea’s official website.
“It demands 100 per cent of your ability and focus because it is very competitive, very physical and tactical too.”
Like Chelsea, who could be without last season’s top scorer Diego Costa due to a hamstring injury, Swansea have managed to keep the vast majority of their squad together, only allowing players who were surplus to requirements to make their Liberty Stadium exit.
The arrival of Andre Ayew promises to give the Welsh club’s attack a new dimension, while Franck Tabanou, Eder and Kristoffer Nordfeldt will be hoping to challenge Neil Taylor, Bafetimbi Gomis and Lukasz Fabianski respectively for a first-team berth.
Former Arsenal goalkeeper Fabianski committed his future to the club on Thursday by signing a new four-year contract.
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