The time has finally come. Our beloved Blues are back in action on Sunday 21st June, as Frank Lampard takes his side to the midlands, where Chelsea will meet Aston Villa at Villa Park. Prior to the break caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Chelsea had struck a golden run of form, knocking Liverpool out of the FA Cup, and hitting Everton for four at Stamford Bridge. Both games shocked all as Billy Gilmour stole the spotlight, picking up back to back Man of the Match awards. The same cannot be said for Aston Villa, as Dean Smith’s side have only managed a single point in their last 6 fixtures. The one point they managed to secure came after a 0-0 draw with Sheffield United on the first game since the break, following a controversial decision leading to a disallowed Blades goal, in which the hawk-eye technology system failed to inform referee Michael Oliver that the ball had crossed the line.
With the return of the Premier League kicking off on Wednesday evening, clubs have been making their preparations in order to finish the season on a high. Aston Villa recently held a friendly with West Brom at Villa Park, which finished 2-2. The Lions then took place in 2 training exercises with Leicester City, but there are no official reports on the scorelines. As mentioned previously, Villa only managed a point on the restart game which kept them in 19th place. Chelsea have also been buckling down, with the players looking confident and full of motivation for the restart. The Blues defeated Reading 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, with Pedro supplying the goal, and also bulldozed through Queens Park Rangers 7-1, with Ruben Loftus Cheek and Billy Gilmour both scoring twice, along with Mason Mount, Willian and Olivier Giroud.
There is currently a 22 point gap between the two sides, with Chelsea sitting in 4th place, and Manchester United, Sheffield United and Wolves breathing down their necks, and Villa are battling for survival, but just a point away from safety. Chelsea and Villa both need a victory as much as each other and with Villa gaining a controversial yet respectable point against Sheffield United, the Blues will need to ensure their focus is at its peak. 5th place Manchester United were held to a draw at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Friday evening, meaning a victory on Sunday will put Lampard’s men 5 points clear of Manchester United.
How the Blues could line up:
After the long break the boys have had, our injured players have had a chance to return to full fitness. Players like Ruben Loftus Cheek and Christian Pulisic to name a few, have been seen training with the full squad and looking very spritely too. I expect Frank will favour the 4-3-3 formation which he has implemented for the most part of the season, with my expected lineup as follows:
Kepa, James, Christensen, Rudiger, Azpilicueta, Kovacic, Barkley, Gilmour, Willian, Mount, Abraham.
As much as us fans want to see Loftus Cheek in the starting XI, it is unlikely that he will be implemented in this way after so long out. With the new rule allowing teams to make 5 substitutions as opposed to 3 however, we can expect to see the Englishman on the field on Sunday.
The same goes for Christian Pulisic and N’Golo Kante, who have also been suffering from injuries over the past few months. The opportunity to make 5 substitutions could enhance Chelsea’s performance because of the depth in the squad. Chelsea will hope for a repeat of the reverse fixture, where the Blues came out victorious with a 2-1 victory, with goals coming from Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount.
Frank attended a press conference on Friday and discussed a number of aspects of the vastly awaited return. The Boss said “We’ve trained really well and had some friendlies but nothing replicated the Premier League. We have to go full throttle no matter what game it is in terms of giving it everything. It won’t be easy but we need to be focused and be at our best.” Lampard also stated that we will be without Fikayo Tomori and Callum Hudson-Odoi, who are both out with short term injuries. A promising sign for Chelsea fans is that Frank has confirmed Ruben Loftus Cheek is physically fit and has looked good in training. Lampard also looks forward to reuniting with John Terry on the sidelines on Sunday. “I have huge respect for him as a friend but we both have big things at stake.”
Players to watch:
Tammy Abraham: Chelsea’s current top scorer has a huge point to prove with the upcoming continuation of the Premier League season. Chelsea have all but confirmed the signing of Timo Werner from RB Leipzig, which means Abraham will be faced with some serious competition come next season, as well as Olivier Giroud signing a contract extension, proving he is still up to the task. With Abraham shining in the first part of the season, watch out for the Englishman to be even more hungry when the season resumes.
Jack Grealish: Grealish has been Aston Villa’s starman for years now, and the player oozes quality when he steps on the pitch. With 13 goal involvements for the struggling Villa side, the captain will be on the front line in an attempt to prevent Chelsea from running away with the game. Grealish recently scored in the behind closed doors friendly with West Brom and also put up some very impressive numbers against Sheffield United, with 100% final third pass accuracy, 97% overall pass accuracy, 3 chances created and 2 successful take-ons. With this performance, Grealish will hope to carry that form into Sunday’s fixture.
Tammy Abraham vs Tyrone Mings
These two men know each other very well, as the duo helped Aston Villa achieve promotion to the Premier League last season. With Abraham’s sharp turns and fierce movement, Mings will have to step up to plate to prohibit Abraham from firing the Blues ahead. Mings matches Abraham in the air and takes the edge on physicality, but Abraham will hope to stay one step ahead of the Villa defender, and lead Chelsea to victory.
Written by Mash Greaves