Aston Villa travel to Stamford Bridge to take on an underperforming Chelsea on Saturday.
Aston Villa’s first game back from the second international break sees them travel to West London to take on Jose Mourinho’s underperforming Chelsea side.
The Blues have collected just eight points so far this season, conceding an uncharacteristic 17 goals. Villa, however, haven’t fared any better as they currently sit in 18th spot with just four points.
Defensively, Villa haven’t been that bad this season, though with eight goals conceded in their last three away matches, they will have to keep it tight against Chelsea in order to have any hope of a positive result.
Ciaran Clark’s injury poses a real problem, though in Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott there is enough height and power there to counter the obvious threat of striker Diego Costa.
Jordan Amavi continues to impress at left-back, though on the opposite flank Villa have had problems.
In a throw-up between Alan Hutton and Leandro Bacuna, the latter’s extra speed and ability to intercept should see him selected, as Chelsea look to move the ball around at pace.
Villa need to plug the midfield, and they’ll need to stay close to Cesc Fabregas and not allow the Spaniard to control proceedings without any pressure in the middle of the park.
The Blues are vulnerable to pace on the counter, as proven by Sadio Mane, who terrorised right-back Branislav Ivanovic during Southampton’s fabulous 3-1 victory in their last outing.
In Idrissa Gueye, Carlos Sanchez and Ashley Westwood, Villa have three strong midfielders who can contribute to the defensive game and put pressure on the hosts out of possession.
However, their best weapon will be breaking quickly and supporting the striker when they go more direct, getting the likes of Scott Sinclair and Jack Grealish to tuck in and attack through the middle.
The two quick wide men are ideal for such an encounter, though they also have to be willing to track back.
Among Villa’s biggest faults this season is simply not playing to the strengths of striker Rudy Gestede.
The former Blackburn Rovers man is a battering ram through the middle and as dominant a striker in the air as any in the Premier League, but he needs service.
The Villa full-backs need to play diagonal balls early and get bodies around Gestede, as against a brittle Chelsea backline they can enjoy plenty of success playing this way.