Paul Merson has predicted that Chelsea have to start 2021/22 season strong to keep Premier League title hopes alive be despite nightmare fixtures.

The defending Champions of Europe,  who finished the 2020/21 campaign on fourth place in the Premier League, begin their 2021-22 season on August 14 with a London derby against Crystal Palace, who recently named former Arsenal star Patrick Vieira as their new head coach.

The Blues then face Arsenal, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Tottenham and Manchester City before the start of October, and Merson believes that it could end Chelsea chances to claim the Premier League trophy if they fail to win at least four games. However, it would be tough as they are missing key midfield pair Jorginho and Mason Mount, both of them had a long Euro 2020 road reaching the finals and would be handed extra time to rest their bodies.

Merson told Starsport: ‘Chelsea are facing a nightmare start to the new season and their first six games are already made or break.

‘They have tough fixtures, and it’s made even worse because so many of their players won’t be back from the Euros in time to be fully fit to play in them.

‘Good luck to any team having to do without key men like Jorginho and Mason Mount for too long.

‘Those two went further than most at the Euros as England and Italy both reached the final – and they’re two of Chelsea’s most important players.

The former Gunners and England star added: ‘Chelsea won the Champions League and fancied pushing for the title. But look at Chelsea’s fixtures and you can see what they’re up against it.

‘After their opener against Crystal Palace, who will be trying to impress a new manager in Patrick Vieira, it’s brutal.

‘They have to play Arsenal and Liverpool before the end of August, and then it’s Aston Villa, Tottenham and Manchester City in September. Ouch.

‘If they get off to a good start, they will be majorly fancied for the title. But they could easily lose a couple of those games.

‘And if you find yourself six points off the pace even so early in the season, that can be hard to make up.’

Chelsea have yet to make new additions thus far. However, reports from Germany claim that Bundesliga attacking duo Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland both are in connection with the Blues over a possible move to Stamford Bridge.