Premier League, round two, is to be kicked off in the midweek by Chelsea and Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge. This, the only Premier League game to be played on Wednesday, has been moved because of Chelsea’s UEFA Super Cup match against Bayern Munich on Friday the 30th August.
While Paul Lambert has accepted that this match necessarily had to be moved due to Chelsea’s fixture congestion, he is not so accepting of this match being sandwiched between Arsenal and Liverpool at relatively late notice, especially since he claims to have given the FA five other suitable dates for the rescheduling.
Well it’s decided now, and this match will see two teams that recorded impressive opening day victories competing to maintain their 100% records, all be these existing after only one game. Last season Chelsea defeated Aston Villa home and away, and in this fixture ran out 8-0 winners handing Villa their biggest lost in Premier League history. This time Villa will be looking to avoid that worst-case-scenario and take some points away from a stadium in which Jose Mourinho has never lost a Premier League game.
Chelsea come into this match on the back of a solid 2-0 victory over newly promoted side Hull. The first 30 minutes in particular were outstanding, with the fast and fluid movement of Oscar, de Bruyne and Hazard leaving Hull in tatters. It was these three who combined for the first goal before a long range free kick from Frank Lampard sealed the points early on. Chelsea went on to see out the result at that score line in a fashion that many labelled “typical Mourinho”. Althought it was a comfortable win for the Blues, Villa can take heart from the fact that Chelsea were extremely wasteful with their chances – the cliché ‘it could have been 7 or 8’ very appropriate to the first half.
If Chelsea’s performance against Hull was impressive, Aston Villa’s opening result was outstanding. As heavy underdogs they went to the Emirates on the first day of the season and ran out 3-1 winners winners and were completely deserving of the three points. An element of luck in regards to referee decisions and opposition injuries may have played a part, but it doesn’t take away from what was a fantastic win for Villa. They will be delighted to have got Benteke on the score sheet twice early on, albeit from the penalty spot, and to have seen many other impressive individual performances, none more so that Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Chelsea were awarded the most penalties last season and, having missed against Hull, Frank Lampard has now failed to score two of his last three having netted the previous 10 in a row. On a more positive note Lampard has scored 13 times against Aston Villa, more than he has scored against any other team.
With Christian Benteke scoring twice against Arsenal he is now the Premier League’s top goal scorer in 2013 with 16 goals. Indeed the Belgian scored against Chelsea towards the end of last season, but was then sent off later in the match.
Chelsea’s greatest strength lies within their attacking midfield, and in the absence of Juan Mata – and in truth even when he is fit – it is difficult to pick out Chelsea’s key player. Oscar, Hazard and de Bruyne are all extremely influential and each of them is worthy of being labelled Chelsea’s key player against the Villains. However, with Mata unlikely to start on Wednesday, it is Oscar who will fill the most important position in the middle of the attacking three. Therefore the end result will greatly depend on the performance that he puts in, arguably making him Chelsea’s most important player for this match. In 2012/13 he was used most frequently as a wide attacker, but against Hull he showed how effective he can be in that central role in which he is used for Brazil. In Chelsea’s opening game Oscar recorded both the most total forward passes and total final third passes, and was also the most accurate player in the team with those stats. In addition he scored the first goal of the game, a well finished toe-poke under the oncoming form of the opposition goal keeper.
With Chelsea almost certain to score in this fixture, Villa will need to weather the storm and take their chances when they come and for this reason it is vital that Christian Benteke has a big game. As has already been said, he is the top goals scorer in 2013 and has already scored twice from the penalty spot leading into this game. In 2012/13 he had a 50% chance conversion rate, perfect for a day on which Villa will need to be clinical, and with 59% of his shots being on target last season, it just shows how deadly is as a finisher. That said for Christian Benteke to be as effective as this against Chelsea he will need the likes of Fabian Delph an Gabriel Agbonlahor to be at their best just as they were against Arsenal. If the whole team can put in a strong shift, then there is no reason why Villa can’t take points of Chelsea in smash-and-grab style.
Chelsea were without Juan Mata and David Luiz on Sunday, and it could likely be a last minute fitness test that decides their availability for this match. Even if either of them are available however, neither should be expected to start. Chelsea will have Azpilicueta back and available for them though, the Spaniard having been rested after playing for Spain days before.
Without any new injuries to hold them back, Villa will be likely to field a similar team to the one that faced Arsenal. They may however make the odd change to keep legs fresh, a move that could see new signings such as Jores Okore make their full Premier League debut.
The odds reflect just how heavy favourites Chelsea are, with a Chelsea win at 1.3. With that in mind and if you’re looking to get rich first it might be worth betting on the draw, 5.5, or a Villa win at 10.8.
Chelsea to win 3-1.
Chelsea to win by more than two goals is at 2.1, a worthy bet considering their performance against Hull, the fact that they put 8 past Aston Villa last season and they have improved with new management and players over the summer.