It is first versus third at the bridge on Saturday as The Blues look to add a second successive defeat to Aston Villa’s 2014/15 Premier League campaign. Despite Lambert’s men being blown away by a 192 second 3 goal salvo last weekend, The Villains have made a fine start and will no doubt prove as troublesome as they were last season when they came to West London early doors.
The Chelsea team that secured victory against Bolton in the week is likely to be very different to the 11 that will kick-off at 3pm on Saturday. I do hope we see Azpilicueta at right-back and Luis on the left after what was a solid debut for the Brazilian. Mourinho has opted for Azpilicueta on the left and Ivanovic at right-back so far. There is an argument that Hazard’s inability to hit the sparkling high’s of last season is down to a lack of a left-footed full-back overlapping and creating space. Matic and Fabregas will come back in but the wide players and the other offensive midfielders, Hazard aside, is anyone’s guess. Costa’s ongoing fitness concerns will make him a doubt but I have a feeling he will get the nod.
Despite Villa’s strong start and Agonlahor’s promising performances, they always do look shy of goals. Various media outlets have reported that Benteke’s return is not far away and Chelsea fans must be hoping that this weekend comes too soon for him. The powerful Belgian has had a real habit of putting us to the sword in recent meetings. Expect to see Lambert utilise Villa’s strong foundation and make steps to keeping the score tight from start to finish. A deep laying defence and buzzy, energetic forwards in the shape of Weimann and Sanchez will be the approach to keep the West Midlanders competitive.
Villa finished the match against Arsenal with 29% of the ball and whilst the game was over at 3-0, the gunners ability to keep the ball in the second half against a technically inferior side is something that I feel more confident that Chelsea can do this season. Fabregas has been a breath of fresh air and completely runs the midfield. Whilst he has been accused of going missing when the big rivals are in town, this is the sort of fixture you would expect him to boss. Expect Lambert to have a plan with Delph and Cleverley in an attempt to neutralise him in particular.
Mourinho’s double tenure has seen a great deal of struggle against O’Neill and Lambert’s teams, albeit mostly at Villa Park and the visiting manager on Saturday got under Jose’s skin last season. Some dubious decisions went our way and a 2-1 victory was undoubtedly unjust upon post-match reflection. The reverse fixture is the one that sticks in everybody’s mind as one of the defining matches where Chelsea lost the title, but the truth is that the main club from the second city usually run us close. It was this kind of fixture where we came up short last year and you would hope that the summer reinforcements will mean that we complete a comfortable home victory this time around.