The international break has now come to an end and matchday 29 of the Premier League is here. With no more breaks in between now and the end of the season, it is promising to become a thrilling end to the season as there is plenty to decide for as the race for the title, champions league places and Europa league places is on.
Chelsea host Aston Villa as the Blues look to build momentum towards pushing higher up the table and finishing in the European places. Though a slow start to the season has seen them lose considerable ground already, Potter’s men still have an outside chance of making it into the top 4 though the other results have to go their way and they themselves have to remain consistent.
The Blues drew 2-2 to Everton last time out in a rather frustrating draw as a 89th minute equalizer by the Toffees snapped their 3 match win streak. It would have been more like 2 points dropped instead of a point gained as the West London side could have leapfrogged their neighbours Fulham and moved upto 9th place. Chelsea currently sit in 10th place level on points with their opponents Aston Villa but ahead just on goal difference.
Unai Emery’s Villa have been flying under the Spaniard as they picked up 10 points from their last 4 games before the international break. This run of form has lifted them up to 11th position and a top half finish could be on the cards for Emery as the revival of the team continues under him. They were comfortable winners last time out as they won 3-0 against AFC Bournemouth which further steered them clear of the threat of relegation and now a top half finish could be the aim for Emery and Co.
When and Where
Date:- 1st April, 2023
Time:- 4:30 PM
Venue:- Stamford Bridge
Referee: Andy Madley.
Assistants: Harry Lennard, Steven Meredith.
Fourth official: Dean Whitestone.
VAR: Tony Harrington.
Assistant VAR: Gary Beswick.
Graham Potter will be a happy man this international break as key first-team players are returning to training. Thiago Silva and Edouard Mendy both returned to training even though they won’t be available for the game against Villa. N’golo Kante “will be out on the pitch” according to Potter who revealed the Frenchman will be making his injury return after a 7 month’s absence. Wesley Fofana, Raheem Sterling, and Christian Pulisic are all unavailable for the game and will be looking to be fit for the crucial game against Liverpool midweek. Kai Havertz, who pulled out of the German national team during the international break with flu, returned to full first-team training at Cobham and is fit to lead the line for the Blues
Aston Villa will be without right-back Matty Cash as he picked up an injury while on international duty and is facing a 3-4 week spell on the sidelines. The Polish international joins Jed Steer and Philippe Coutinho on the list of absentees for the travel to West London as the trio are unavailable. Emery will welcome back Leander Dendoncker and Boubacar Kamara as the duo returned to full first-team training during the break.
Chelsea have been underwhelming while at home as they have managed to score just 26 goals on home soil which is the least in the league. Goals have been hard to come by for the Blues despite scoring 8 goals in their last 4 PL games. The attack is still lacking the finishing touch even though the side can create plenty of chances thanks to their two chief creators Joao Felix and Enzo Fernandez. The duo’s chemistry with each other and also with their teammates has helped the Blues significantly in the final third. The latter’s midfield dominance has been the highlight of the season so far as he has blended in perfectly with his new teammates and looks worth every 120 million euros the Blues are going to pay for him.
The test against Aston Villa will be a difficult one for the Blues as their opponents have conceded just 3 goals in their last 5 games while winning 4 of those 5 games. Emery’s style of play has suited the Villains as his 4-2-3-1/4-2-2-2 hybrid system has helped club talisman Ollie Watkins start racking up the goals again. Villa have scored in each of their 16 competitive games under their Spanish manager and will certainly want to inflict damage on the Blues’ dreams of achieving Europe.
The Villains have a poor record against their opponents particularly away from home as they have won just one of their last 17 trips to the Bridge something Emery will want to change. Chelsea have been vulnerable in defence making silly defensive errors like the one they made for the equalizer Everton scored in the dying stages of the game where Kalidou Koulibaly was caught on the wrong foot by Ellis Simms which cost the Blues 2 crucial points. The game promises to be an entertaining end-to-end game of football as both sides have great attacking firepower.
The Portugese has been a revelation ever since joining the Blues. With a goal at the weekend after hitting the woodwork 3 times in the 3 previous games, it would be a huge confidence boost for the 23 year old. His creativity and intelligent link up play with his teammates have helped the Blues break down defences with ease and this could be the case against Villa too. He will be the Blues’ X-factor in this one and the Villains have a task at their hands in keeping him quite throughout the game.
The striker created history after being the first player in Villa’s history to score in five successive Premier League games after the goal against West Ham during their last away game. Though he is yet to open his goalscoring tally against the Blues, his red hot form could mean he does so at the Bridge this time around. He has been his side’s talisman under Emery netting 7 times in just 12 appearances.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Kepa, Chalobah, Koulibaly, Cucurella, Chilwell, Kovacic, Enzo, James, Madueke, Mudryk, Felix
Aston Villa (4-2-3-1): Martinez, Young, Mings, Konsa, Moreno, Luiz, McGinn, Bailey, Buendia, Ramsey, Watkins