Chelsea vs Aston Villa – Pre-game Assessment

There are any number of teams that Chelsea would prefer to face following the disruptive international break than our Villans. Last season, albeit with Jack Grealish, we contributed to manager Frank Lampard being fired by coming back to tie his Blues 1-1 at Stamford Bridge with a second half equalizer by El Ghazi.

Then, in the return fixture at Villa Park, which was the last game of the season, the Villa appeared to be knocking the Blues out of the top four and European qualification, with a 2-0 lead only for Spurs to upset Leicester at King Stadium with three late goals.  That was the lifeline that saved the pensioners.  As it was, not only did the Blues take the number 4 spot despite the loss but, they went on to beat Manchester City in the European Championship Final held in Lisbon.  Without Spurs’ help, a desperate Chelsea squad could have faltered against Pep Guardiola’s team of all stars.  Still, credit to them for taking advantage of their good fortune.

Lampard’s successor, German Thomas Tuchel, has consistently shown his skill at selecting the best squad and the best tactics to employ regardless of his opponent.  Against Villa, they will, no doubt, be focused on limiting our looks at goal, something they excel at.  So far, the Blues have not conceded a single goal from open play in their three fixtures.

As for offense, Tuchel will have brilliant forwards at the kickoff and more stars on the bench to call on.  In May, he had a $91 million keeper (Kepa) to replace an injured Mendy, while Hakim Ziyech and Kai Haivetz were subbed-in for their firepower.  Those moves almost worked.  This coming Saturday, Tuchel will have all the same options, plus Romelu Lukaku.  Yes, he’s back and anxious to prove himself again!

Villa will likely have a recovered (from a rib injury) Tyrone Mings, fresh from another international shutout, a match-fit Ollie Watkins and a solid midfield trio (McGinn, Luiz, and Ramsey) to complement the indefatigable El Ghazi and always dangerous Ings.  If Konsa completes his recovery from the pile-up against Brentford, Villa will have the backline that earned 15 shutouts last season.

That challenge will get a little more difficult with the absence of the two Emi’s, both called up to play for Argentina in their World Cup qualifier game against Brazil.  At time of writing, the game has been abandoned at the orders of the Brazilian health authorities due to COVID-19 quarantine violations, a twist that is unlikely to make them available for the Villa anytime soon.

What is likely is that Dean Smith’s team will play at a higher level than they have so far this season and will do us proud.  On paper, Chelsea should win but they will need to play up to their full potential and hope that Ings does not find another bicycle kick, or similar opportunity, that Ollie does not ghost by his marker and sting the back of the net, or John McGinn does not conjure up another blinder.  If Chelsea concedes another penalty (like Jorginho did in May), El Ghazi can be relied on to give Mendy (or Kepa) no opportunity to save it.

Villa’s game plan will be predictable, let the Blues come to them, and make them pay on the breaks.  If necessary, we can call on Leon Bailey as our wildcard, confident that no one in Tuchel’s backline can match his speed.

This stands to be an exciting game with me betting that we can, at least, tie!  UTV.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *