Burnley vs. Chelsea: Key Selection Decisions for Jose Mourinho

Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistAugust 17, 2014

Burnley vs. Chelsea: Key Selection Decisions for Jose Mourinho

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    After weeks of fine-tuning systems, the new Premier League season has kicked off.

    Jose Mourinho and his players have to wait just a little while longer to get their campaign up and running, travelling to Burnley on Monday night.

    It's been a productive summer for the Blues. New signings were secured early, and since the World Cup, Mourinho has used pre-season effectively, integrating Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa and Filipe Luis.

    Costa is a certainty to start against the Clarets, but there are still questions surrounding the rest of Mourinho's selections.

    Ahead the Turf Moor clash, Bleacher Report takes a closer look at the decisions Mourinho needs to make.

Petr Cech or Thibaut Courtois?

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    Above all else, Jose Mourinho's choice of goalkeeper against Burnley will be the one that comes under the most scrutiny.

    The Blues have an embarrassment of riches to choose from in Petr Cech and young Belgian stopper Thibaut Courtois.

    The latter has returned after three years on loan at Atletico Madrid, where he has enhanced his reputation. Meanwhile, Cech enters 2014/15 on the back of another fine season at Chelsea.

    It's a tough call for Mourinho: Does he go with a player who has served him well down the years or opt to give youth a chance?

    Both 'keepers are world-class talents, but one of them will be forced to watch from the bench this season.

Stick with 4-2-3-1 or Switch to 4-3-3?

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    Last season, 4-2-3-1 worked well for Chelsea.

    With two deep-lying midfielders, it meant they were compact enough to protect the back four, recording the best defensive record in the Premier League.

    A major problem was how quickly they got the ball forward, though.

    Chelsea's three attacking midfielders caused plenty of problems on the attack, but there were times they were starved of a quick ball to stretch defences.

    How much of that was down to personnel or the system remains to be seen.

    It's clear the addition of Cesc Fabregas has been made in order to improve Chelsea as attacking force.

    But which system works best? Last year's or the 4-3-3 Jose Mourinho deployed so effectively during his first spell as Chelsea manager.

    He has tried both in pre-season and the latter has seen Chelsea look more fluid on the front foot. It cannot come at the expense of defensive solidity, however, so Mourinho will be mulling over which works best in the long term.

Who Will Join Eden Hazard in Attacking Midfield?

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    When match fit, Chelsea's attacking midfield all but picks itself.

    Eden Hazard is the player this Chelsea team will revolve around over the coming season, with Oscar also key Jose Mourinho's plans.

    After those two, it becomes a battle between Willian, Andre Schurrle and Mohamed Salah for the vacant position alongside them.

    Right now, with the World Cup ensuring it's been a long summer for some Chelsea players, fitness will play a big role in who Mourinho chooses to start against Burnley.

    This isn't pre-season anymore, and he can only make three substitutions, so the fittest players will need to start to guarantee they can last at least an hour.

    When Chelsea kick-off against Burnley, it will be two weeks to the day since Schurrle, Ramires, Oscar and Willian all returned to training after the World Cup.

    That's not ideal, and they will be a long way off their peak fitness.

    So who starts?

Where Will Ramires Fit In?

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    With the signings Chelsea have made this summer, it's difficult to see where Ramires fits into Jose Mourinho's plans.

    Should Chelsea deploy a 4-2-3-1, the Brazilian will always line up alongside either John Obi Mikel or Nemanja Matic, meaning he's competing with Marco van Ginkel and Cesc Fabregas for a starting berth.

    In a 4-3-3, it becomes a little more complicated, with Oscar potentially dropping deeper alongside Fabregas and Matic.

    From being a key component in this Chelsea team, it seems things have evolved without Ramires or his talents in mind.

    It's not just about the Burnley game, though. The course of 2014/15 will tell us more about Ramires' position at Chelsea.

    Right now, it isn't clear.

Branislav Ivanovic or Cesar Azpilicueta?

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    Such are Chelsea's options in defence these days, either Branislav Ivanovic or Cesar Azpilicueta—two of the Premier League's most talented full-backs—faces the prospect of watching more games from the sidelines than they actually play this term.

    Azpilicueta had a standout campaign last year, keeping Ashley Cole out of the team at left-back.

    Now Filipe Luis has been added to the squad, it's expected Azpilicueta will have to fight with Ivanovic for a place in his more natural right-back role.

    It's a difficult choice for Jose Mourinho, yet one he will relish.

    It shows how strong Chelsea are this season and gives the manager the options he craved in 2013/14.

    For the opening game of the season, Mourinho will probably opt to play it safe with Ivanovic. He's defensively solid and will be ready for the expected onslaught from a motivated Burnley side looking to make their mark in their first game back in the top flight.

     

    Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes