On Saturday, Chelsea face a buoyant Aston Villa in what will be an interesting game between two sides who have started the season in a bright manner. The London side lead the Premier League table with 13 points and are currently the only other undefeated side in the League along with Arsenal. Meanwhile Villa are currently third in the standings.
Chelsea have started the season very strongly, securing four wins on the trot against Burnley, Leicester, Everton and Swansea respectively. New signings Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas have settled in effortlessly, with the former topping the scoring charts and the latter the assists. The draw against City will be remembered for Frank Lampard’s late equaliser more than anything else but a draw away from home against the current League champions is a good result in the long run, and it is early days just yet. Nevertheless, Chelsea have started well enough to justify the pre-season prediction that they would be title favourites this season, although there are departments in which improvements can be made.
Villa’s form has been slightly more mixed. A hard-earned win against Stoke City away at the Brittania was followed up by a draw against Newcastle at home. Home and away wins against Hull and Liverpool respectively followed before they were duly beaten by Arsenal at home last weekend. However, manager Paul Lambert will go into Saturday’s game with some confidence since Villa have been able to grind out two away wins against quality opposition in Stoke and Liverpool respectively. Chelsea are tougher opposition than those two, but Villa have nothing to lose and will play the game with a lot more freedom, something that might ensure they don’t leave West London empty handed this weekend. Expect Chelsea to have more of the possession with Villa sitting deep and looking for any chance to hurt Chelsea on the counter. Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann will be key to Villa’s chances. Agbonlahor has the pace to trouble John Terry and Gary Cahill and Weimann is a trciky player with an ability to pop up with goals when it matters the most.
When teams parked the bus against Chelsea last season, they struggled a great deal. However, with a potent goal-scorer like Costa upfront as well as someone like Fabregas who has the ability to open up defences with just a pass, Chelsea have found it much easier to deal with teams that sit deep this season. The key for Chelsea would be to score a goal or two early and then ease up a bit by sitting back. This will in turn force Villa to try and take the initiative and make things happen rather than wait for a Chelsea mistake to pounce on. However, if Chelsea don’t take their chances early on than a draw or even a Villa win would seem a likelier result.
On paper, Chelsea are the much stronger side and one would expect them to walk away with all three points come Saturday. However, Villa have been in decent form so far this season and will no doubt come to the Bridge full of confidence. The game will be an interesting one for fans and neutrals alike.