The start of Chelsea season 2013-14 could not have gone better. It was three points and a great start to the second spell under Mourinho. A bigger test awaits us in the form of a home match against Aston Villa. Those who watched Arsenal vs Aston Villa on Saturday will understand that this is an extremely tough encounter. This is not the same Aston Villa team that flirted with relegation last season.
The young squad assembled by Paul Lambert is a year older in terms of experience. They are also extremely fit and capable of ripping apart teams on the counter-attack even in the 89th minute.
Mourinho’s admission that Chelsea were not fit enough to carry on the first half performance in the second half as well was a shock. The Villa match will be a true test of the players’ fitness even at this early stage in the season. Against Hull City, Chelsea had an incredibly strong bench, as all those players were full internationals. This means that Mourinho can rotate his team to provide some freshness and also some variation.
Marco van Ginkel and Andre Schurrle could make their full debuts, while Lukaku could also start. The Belgian striker looked more than comfortable when he came on for Fernando Torres. Mata’s injury and fitness problems might prevent him from starting the match yet again. David Luiz is the only first-team player ruled out.
At the back, Cesar Azpilicueta may come in for Ivanovic, but that side Mourinho should not make too many changes.
Hazard and Schurrle (if he starts) could be crucial in creating chances. They will be up against inexperienced fullbacks Luna and Lowton. The defensive midfielders Essien and Van Ginkel should stop the fierce counter-attacks from Villa.
Benteke will undoubtedly be a force to reckon with. Once the powerful Belgian holds the ball up, he will be looking to bring others into play and this is where the likes of Essien should stop the play from building up. Benteke has already scored two goals in the league. Terry and Cahill have to be at their absolute best in order to deal with him.
Predicted team line-up:
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Essien, Van Ginkel; Schurrle, Oscar, Hazard, Lukaku
Aston Villa (4-3-3): Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Luna, Ahmadi, Westwood, Delph, Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor
Live event kick-off:
Chelsea vs Aston Villa
19:45 (London time)
Where can you watch it?
United States – NBC Sports Network, NBC Sports Live Extra, SiriusXM FC
India – Star Sports India, ESPN India, ESPN HD India
Japan – J Sports 2