Can Chelsea make a statement in what is an important week ahead?
Chelsea had an absurd start to their season. It first started with the Diego Costa situation and how his absence would affect their season in the long run. Before the situation could even be solved, the Blues pulled another preposterous move by selling Matic to direct rivals Manchester United.
The situation was aggravated by the sale of some key young players. Because of all the things that were happening at the Bridge, the defeat against Burnley at home brought forward a lot of questions. Predictions were made that Conte could get the boot.
It's now been more than a month since the start of the Premier League and Chelsea are looking fresh again. They brought a couple of new players and immediately responded with three big wins against Tottenham, Leicester, and Everton. The league wins were followed by a 6-0 win against Qarabag in the Champions League and most recently, an impressive 4-0 win away at Stoke.
Amidst all this, Chelsea even took a chance of fielding a very young team against Nottingham forest in the Carabao Cup and successfully defeated them 4-1. The only upset was a draw at home against Arsenal.
New signing Alvaro Morata has been scoring a lot of goals and has not let the departure of Diego Costa affect the structure of the team. Bakayoko, who replaced Matic, has also not disappointed so far and has slotted in well. But here's when it becomes interesting. Chelsea have two huge games this week; a trip to Madrid on Tuesday which will be followed by a home game against Manchester City on Saturday.
Conte's men normally like to sit back in big games and hit their opposition on counter attacks and did so quite well last season. In games like these, Matic played a pivotal role and helped the team keep a good defensive shape and prevented their three-man defence from being breached.
Costa helped the team by holding the ball upfront and using his physical abilities to create havoc for defenders. The games against City and Atletico will be a huge test for the entire team and whether they can still do it without the aforementioned duo.
Atletico and Chelsea play a similar type of game and are both defensively solid. It'll probably be a dull game with very few chances and attackers of both teams would have to be very clinical. Morata did not waste a single chance in his hat-trick against Stoke this past weekend but to repeat it against a team like Atletico will be a far more cumbersome challenge.
Costa was previously instrumental in such games. For instance, last year West Brom arrived at Bridge with a very defensive approach and were making it difficult for the Blues. However, Costa created an opening for himself and was able to give his side a 1-0 win; a chance from nothing, essentially. If at all the Blues fail to come up with a decent display against Simeone's side the Costa would be reignited.
The next onerous task will be at home against City. The Sky Blues have been destroying teams this season and have scored sixteen goals in the last three league games while conceding none. Their attacks are lightning fast and with the support of creative midfielders like Silva and De Bruyne, they've become absolutely lethal.
Last season, Chelsea had Matic and Kante help the team block those little spaces and absorb the pressure from attacking sides like City. The Serb was an expert in doing so and frustrated the opposition. Whether Bakayoko can do the same with Kante remains to be seen.
Chelsea need to put in strong performances against both the sides and put an end to all the lingering doubts. Assuming that they are able to do that, it'll give the league a new contender as the two Manchester sides have made all the headlines so far.
On top of that, a win away against Atletico will be the perfect way to send out the message that they are back in Europe and will require something special to be beaten.