Chelsea v Bristol Rovers (EFL Cup) – Saturday 20th August 2016

Chelsea are making an earlier than usual entrance to the League Cup, which has had a big rebranding over the summer. The Blues usually start this competition in September, but sides who don’t qualify for Europe join in the second round. Can they avoid an early upset against Bristol Rovers?

This clash against the League One side is a brand new experience for Antonio Conte. The Italian is used to having the Coppa Italia, but he has two domestic cups to negotiate this term. His first task is finding a way past League One outfit Bristol Rovers, which is going to be very different to his challenges so far.

Rovers have made a mixed start to life in the third tier, having made back to back promotions to get out of the National League. The Gas have won once in three clashes, but they dumped out Championship side Cardiff in the first round of the EFL Cup. They are eying up an even bigger giant killing at Stamford Bridge.

Following the Football League’s rebranding to become the EFL, they’ve also renamed their main cup competition. That links it closer with the league itself, but it’s hardly the most appealing of names. However, this is a trophy that the Blues have enjoyed in recent years, and it could be one Conte takes to.

Jose Mourinho’s first and second Chelsea spells were built on winning this trophy. The early final means sides who win it take confidence into the run in. It also gives the new manager a chance to get his first cup on the board quickly. That would be huge given he doesn’t have any European silverware to chase.

While it’s strange to think of players being rested after just two games, expect to see a much changed side for this clash. The established stars will probably sit this one out, with quite a few youngsters introduced. It gives Conte an opportunity to look at his fringe players, and could possibly prompt him to dive back into the transfer market.

Strangely, this is the first time these two sides have met, so this isn’t just a first for Conte. He’ll have to prepare to face a side that his team know little about, which is always tough. We’ve seen enough cup upsets at Stamford Bridge in recent years to know that anything can happen, so a win here can’t be taken for granted.

This isn’t the kind of tie the Blues want at this stage of the season, but it’s the first big reminder of last season’s disappointment. The club need to get refocused on delivering success, and that should start with a cup win. Hopefully the fans can move past this early return to cup again and push a much changed team to a much needed victory.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 4-1