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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Shock defeat exposes Chelsea's weaknesses

Five things we learned

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte
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1 Conte in desperate need of depth
Gary Cahill's early red card changed the course of the match and Chelsea still had more possession, shots and corners than Burnley, but their lack of squad depth was highlighted during the shock opening 3-2 defeat for the champions at Stamford Bridge.

Antonio Conte's starting 11 barely changed last season as they rode their luck with injuries but the decision to let so many fringe players depart as well as Nemanja Matic (not to mention the Diego Costa bust-up) saw an unfamiliar Blues side take to the field on Saturday.

Conte denied his team selection was a statement to the board that more players are needed but it certainly looked that way with Jeremie Boga starting, while Cahill and Cesc Fabregas will be suspended for Sunday's Wembley showdown with Tottenham in a London derby which already feels like a contest the champions must not lose.

Reports suggesting Conte could quit Chelsea filled plenty of column inches over the summer and the Blues need a result quickly to calm the apparent rising tension in west London.

2 No improvement from last season for Villa
Some bookmakers rated Aston Villa favourites for the Sky Bet Championship after they signed John Terry but even with the former England captain they were battered at Cardiff.

The final 3-0 scoreline suggests a thumping and the stats back that up with Cardiff winning the shots-on-target battle 12-1.

"It was on the edge of embarrassment" said Villa boss Steve Bruce, who has seen his team win two away games in 2017 - against relegated duo Rotherham and Wigan.

3 Promotion chances for Wolves
A comfortable 2-0 win at Derby followed last week's 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough to give Portuguese boss Nuno the perfect start to his Wolves career and there's no doubt Wanderers need to be taken seriously.

It's never easy to know how young foreign players will settle but it's likely Diogo Jota and Ruben Neves will get better the longer the campaign goes on, while Wolves can surely only improve when Helder Costa returns from injury.

Given the difficulty of their start it was understandable that many punters were wary of putting their faith in Wolves but they could become major promotion players.

4 MK Dons flatter to deceive again
They were the subject of an ante-post tipping-line gamble and glowing summer reports but MK Dons lost 1-0 at Blackpool to remain goalless and pointless this season and, worryingly, goalkeeper Lee Nicholls earned the plaudits in Saturday's defeat as well as last week's home loss to Wigan.

Wigan won the shot count 14-6 and the shots-on-target tally 6-1, while at Bloomfield Road Milton Keynes managed only two shots on target despite chasing the match for 84 minutes.

Even the 1-0 League Cup win over Football League new boys Forest Green in extra-time saw the Dons force just three efforts on target in a tie where the League Two outfit managed nine.

5 Lyon could go well in Europe
The Europa League field, bar Arsenal and Milan, appears quite weak and last season's semi-finalists Lyon are worth backing at 28-1.

Alexandre Lacazette was one of a host of big names to depart in the summer but their new-look squad looked slick in beating Rennes 2-1 with Mariano notching the winner to take his tally to three goals in two games.

A front four of Mariano, Memphis Depay, Bertrand Traore and Nabil Fekir could make a mockery of the current odds.

It was understandable that many punters were wary of putting their faith in Wolves but they could become major promotion players
E.W. Terms
Sky bet