Following the International break, its back to the nitty gritty of the Premiership on Saturday for the Champions, with a visit to Villa Park for the late kick-off against, newly appointed Gerald Houllier’s, Aston Villa.
Villa has an impressive home record so far with victories against West Ham and Everton and a hard fought draw against Bolton. Their away record, however, is abysmal with defeats at Tottenham and Stoke, a 6-0 mauling at St James’s Park and a narrow victory against local rivals Wolves.
Chelsea’s record at Villa Park has been patchy, at best, recently with last years 2-1 defeat particularly disappointing as we had gone 1-0 up and enjoyed the lion’s share of possession only to capitulate to two set piece headers.
The Villa line up is anyone’s guess as the afore-mentioned Monsieur Houllier has used 22 players in his 3 matches so far this season. (same number as O’Neill used in an entire season!) Houllier has openly stated that he will use his 25 man squad in its entirety. I do, however, expect Villa to pack the midfield in an attempt to stifle Essien and co al a Man City. Expect to see Stephen Ireland alongside Reo-Coker and Petrov in the centre with Young and Downing making up the five behind the lone Emile Heskey.
Chelsea has problems in central defence. Alex is back in light training but will surely not be risked. Terry is far from ready with back spasms and sore ribs, so I expect to see Ivanovic partnered in the centre by Jeffrey Bouma. Bosingwa will not be risked so Ferreira will play right back This is far from ideal as Villa are a serious aerial threat from set pieces. I expect Lamps to return in the centre with Essien and Mikel behind the familiar front three.
So, how do we ‘ammer villa? Houllier is a cautious manager and will try to defend deeply and counter attack using the pace of Young and Downing. Therefore Carlo will ensure Mikel stays well back, with Essien also playing a deeper role, allowing super Frank to join up with the three pronged attack. I see goals on Saturday and I predict Chelsea to continue their impressive start with a 4-2 victory.
Villa at the Bridge last season was, for me, our best display of the campaign. In fact, probably our finest display since beating Villa 2-1 at home the previous year. As my good mate Andy Miller said last year ‘’ what time do the Villa kick-off? Every ten minutes!!’’