Paul Lambert's Aston Villa side will travel to Chelsea full of confidence after their 3-1 victory over Arsenal on Saturday afternoon. With Christian Benteke among the goals again and Gabby Agbonlahor in great form, Villa will feel they can take on anyone.
Chelsea though cruised to a 2-0 victory over Hull in their opening Premier League game under Jose Mourinho and will want to take the opportunity to get an early lead over their title rivals. The west London club beat Villa 8-0 in the reverse fixture last season and go into the game as favourites at 1.33 for the win. Villa are 9.00 despite Saturday's result.
Mourinho will likely make a number of changes to the side who played Hull. Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaku, both of whom were left out of that game, should return to the starting line-up, while the likes of Andre Schurrle and Marco van Ginkel are also pushing for starts. The aerial ability of John Terry and Gary Cahill will be key against Christian Benteke.
Paul Lambert is unlikely to change too much given that Villa were so impressive on Saturday. His side will hope to benefit from having had an extra day's rest.
The Benteke factor
For Aston Villa the man to watch is obviously Christian Benteke. Not only did the Belgian score an impressive 19 league goals in his debut season last year (40% of Villa's tota), he also netted twice at the Emirates. Having secured the striker on a long-term deal, the Villans will hope he continues to be their talisman this season. Chelsea are aware of the threat he can offer, as he scored (and was also sent off) when Chelsea visited Villa Park towards the latter end of last season. Incredibly he won 14 headers against Arsenal at the weekend.
Villa will likely use long balls to put pressure on Chelsea's back line and get the supply to Benteke as quick as possible. Only Norwich played fewer short passes than Villa’s 244 at the weekend, with Villa also playing 62 long passes – almost double the number attempted by Arsenal. With Benteke’s obvious physical prowess and aerial ability, a direct style of play could be the best route for success for Villa, who will need to defend in numbers and then break.
Chelsea's interchanging attacking midfielders
One of the major aspects of Chelsea's play last season was the interchanging of three attacking midfielders behind a striker. Against Hull it was clear that Mourinho will stick with this system. Oscar, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne caused a host of problems for the Tigers, particularly in the first half when the Blues were rampant. The flexibility in the set-up makes it difficult for opposition players to man mark Chelsea’s advanced players without repeatedly being dragged out of position.
Frank Lampard and Ramires also burst forward at every opportunity, Lampard in particular forcing a number of good saves from the Hull keeper Allan McGregor. A glance at Frank Lampard's heat-map shows the kind of attacking positions he took up throughout the course of the fixture:
This will probably be a feature of Mourinho's tactics throughout the season, regardless of who is picked to do this role. Young Dutch midfielder Van Ginkel is also more than capable of playing in a box-to-box style, as is Michael Essien. This represents a small departure from last season's tactics, when Chelsea's holding players tended to stay relatively deep.
Chelsea have a very strong record at home, particularly under Jose Mourinho, who did not lose a Premier League game at Stamford Bridge in his first spell at the club. With that in mind, despite Villa's heroics at Arsenal on Saturday it is difficult to look past Chelsea. The Londoners will, however, have to be wary of the threat posed by Christian Benteke, both on the ground and in the air.
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