Our opponents from the last game before we were crowned European champions provide the opposition for the second home match of this season. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician preview the game…
Fourth hosts 11th on Saturday evening as football’s focus switches from international banquet to domestic bread and butter. Chelsea are unbeaten in each of the past eight home and away matches across all competitions in this 5.30pm TV broadcast slot, starting with a 1-1 at Aston Villa last season.
With defence of our European crown about to begin, Thomas Tuchel will hope his team continue their bright start to the league campaign against visitors who have not managed a top-flight clean sheet at the Bridge since March 1998, but who won our most recent meeting 2-1 at Villa Park.
Until the claret-and-blue side’s relegation in 2016, this was one of the Premier League’s ever-present fixtures. In the 2010s it produced sensational scorelines including Chelsea’s 7-1 victory in 2010, featuring four from Frank Lampard, and the Blues’ record-equalling 8-0 win with seven different scorers two years later, the visitors’ all-time worst league result.
Chelsea fire seven past Aston Villa!
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In fact, Chelsea have won 11 of our past 16 home league games against the Villans and netted in each of the past 20. Another three points on Saturday evening would secure three home league victories in a row for the first time since July 2020.
Chelsea are aiming to become the first London club to register 600 Premier League wins. Only one team has reached that milestone so far - Manchester United.
— KEY STAT
Chelsea team news
Some draws carry more value than others and there was much to honour in the intensity of the 10-man performance at Anfield in our most recent match, despite the first dropped points of the season.
As ever with the post-internationals weekend, the theme at Cobham is partly about availability – who is fit and fresh after their globetrotting – and who stayed behind and impressed.
Thomas Tuchel must also factor in the defence of our European crown, which starts on Tuesday at home to Zenit St Petersburg. Those not quite ready for the weekend can always step up in midweek.
Having worked every day on fitness and tactics, deadline-day signing Saul Niguez will be confident of being able to ply his wares for the Stamford Bridge faithful. A box-to-box midfielder restricted to defensive midfield in the past few seasons, alongside carrying a goal threat the 26-year-old adds strength and height (at six foot) to our central options, while his left-/two-footedness could bring more balance. His availability is especially timely as N’Golo Kante’s ankle injury puts his participation in doubt.
Excitement at the prospect of Saul’s arrival could have been tempered by a possible delay to Romelu Lukaku’s first performance as a home player at Stamford Bridge since a 2-1 victory against the same opponents eight years and three weeks ago. He has scored in each of his past five Premier League meetings with the Villans, six in total.
The centre-forward was reporting thigh trouble with Belgium but he trained on Thursday and Thomas Tuchel reports him as fit. If needed, the has a range of alternatives to shuffle in attack. Kai Havertz returned from mild illness to set up Germany team-mate Timo Werner’s strike on Wednesday.
Following his three goals and an assist for Hansi Flick’s team, Werner will be pushing to add to his 90 minutes in the league so far. Hakim Ziyech, not involved with Morocco, is another who has been preparing all week at Cobham.
However Christian Pulisic, already stricken with Covid early this season, limped out of USA’s 4-1 win at Honduras. That finished at 5.30am Thursday UK time, so his participation this weekend was always likely to be limited.
Reece James is banned after his red card at Liverpool – the first card of any hue shown to a Chelsea player in the campaign, and one even Jurgen Klopp considered harsh. A Brazil request under FIFA rules means Thiago Silva could sit out this match but the Blues have clear alternatives in defence.
Absentees for Villa
Villa were among six clubs who avoided top-flight defeat against Chelsea in 2020/21 (Arsenal, Manchester United, Southampton, West Brom and Wolves were the others). Manager Dean Smith had lost four of his five previous encounters with the Blues.
The Londoners are hoping to avoid consecutive league losses against Villa for the first time since the days when Ron Atkinson was at the Midlanders’ helm.
Stories in the build-up to Villa’s first post-Jack Grealish era trip to Stamford Bridge have centred on the potential absence of two influential Emis – Buendia and Martinez – relating to Argentina’s World Cup qualifier in ‘red-listed’ Brazil.
Goalkeeper Martinez was exceptional for the Birmingham club last season after swapping the bench at the Emirates for first team stalwart status under Smith.
A decent measure of the Argentinean’s importance is that he faced the third-most shots on target of any goalie last season but was ninth for goals conceded. The beneficiary if he is missing could be 2013 signing Jed Steer, whose last involvement in the top flight was as an eighth-minute sub in a 2-1 loss at Wolves in October 2019.
Smith will also rue the loss of Buendia’s creativity at the home of the European champions, but former Blue Bertrand Traore and fast, smart winger Leon Bailey could be ready to support the firepower of striker Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins.
In midfield, the Scot will ponder the best partner for John McGinn. He may opt for Marvellous Nakamba’s athleticism to help screen a defence that has been breached four times already this season, all struck from inside the penalty area. Four of Chelsea’s six goals have been scored from the same zone, including Kai Havertz’s sublime header at Anfield.
Who’s on pens?
Unlike Aston Villa, who lead the way with two scored and none missed (40 per cent of their goals), Chelsea are in the majority of 13 Premier League clubs yet to be awarded a penalty this season.
Interestingly, the Blues have taken (11) and dispatched (9) more spot-kicks in the Premier League against the Villans than any other club, with 10 coming at the Bridge.
So when the referee does eventually point to the spot in our favour, who will step up? As incumbent, Jorginho has a strong claim to continue: he has successfully dispatched nine for club and country since the start of the 2020/21 season, and netted neatly in last month’s Super Cup shoot-out. That said, the midfielder’s saved effort for Italy against Austria last Sunday added to three blanks for the Londoners over the same period.
If change is ever in the air, spot-kick duty could fall to Romelu Lukaku, who has found the net 20 times domestically or internationally since his last miss from the spot in August 2017. Success would also exorcise the ghost of his scuffed effort for Chelsea saved by Bayern’s Manuel Neuer, which proved decisive in the 2013 Super Cup.
Champions League round-up
Our Group H rivals are in mixed form going into the opening group stage games next week. Six rounds into the Russia Premier League, Zenit lead the way undefeated and as top goalscorers.
With 17 of the 30 games completed in defence of their 2020 Allsvenskan title, Malmo stand three points behind leaders AIK. They lost two of their past three games and host mid-table Norrkoping this weekend.
Serie A is only two rounds in but Juventus are yet to register a win, standing 13th. On Saturday the Old Lady faces a testing trip to Napoli, the team they pipped to fourth place to secure a Champions League ticket.
The elusive Club World Cup
Qualification for the FIFA Club World Cup, one of the few trophies Chelsea have entered and not yet won, trundles on, with Auckland City added to the tournament's entrants.
The 12-time New Zealand champions were nominated by the Oceana Football Confederation on sporting merit (their eleventh CWC qualification), as their version of the Champions League was cancelled as a result of the pandemic.
Auckland join the Blues and Egypt’s all-Africa champions Al Ahly, with CONCACAF’s representatives to come next month.
FIFA announced yesterday that the tournament, originally set for mid-December, is looking for a replacement venue after Japan withdrew because of Covid concerns.
A helping hand for H&F folk
On Saturday for the first time in 17 months the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust will appeal to the matchday generosity of Blues fans on behalf of the Hammersmith and Fulham Foodbank.
The new collection point will be at the gates of Sir Oswald Stoll Mansions, adjacent to the Bridge on the Fulham Road. Sadly, needs are greater than ever, and donations of long-life juice and milk, tinned fruit, meat, vegetables and fish, and instant coffee will be especially welcome.
Matchday 4 Premier League fixtures
Crystal Palace v Tottenham 12.30pm (BT Sport)
Arsenal v Norwich 3pm
Brentford v Brighton 3pm
Leicester v Man City 3pm
Man Utd v Newcastle 3pm
Southampton v West Ham 3pm
Watford v Wolves 3pm
Chelsea v Aston Villa 5.30pm (Sky Sports)
Leeds v Liverpool 4.30pm (Sky Sports)
Everton v Burnley 8pm (Sky Sports)
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