After a chaotic international break, Aston Villa return to Premier League action this Saturday when they visit defending European champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Having taken four points from their opening three matches, Villa have left a lot to be desired early in this 2021/22 campaign, though injuries and other absences have made life difficult for the club.
That theme will continue at Chelsea as Argentinian internationals Emi Martinez and Emi Buendia are set to miss out. Both must serve a 10-day quarantine after traveling to red-listed Argentina for the international break.
Chelsea enter the weekend in fourth place on two wins and one draw. Most recently, on August 28, 10-men Blues eked out a 1-1 draw at Anfield, staving off an all-out attack from Liverpool in the second half.
The sides last met on the final day of the 2020/21 season, when Villa took all three points from Chelsea in a 2-1 win. The London side went on to win the Champions League final the following weekend.
Villa’s last win at Stamford Bridge came on December 31, 2011, when Stephen Ireland, Stilian Petrov, and Darren Bent scored in a 3-1 victory.
Chelsea vs. Aston Villa team news
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith said on Friday that Ollie Watkins, Leon Bailey, John McGinn, and Jacob Ramsey are all back to full fitness ahead of Saturday’s trip to London.
Watkins made a substitute cameo in the 1-1 draw with Brentford on August 28, while Bailey has not featured since the season-opening match at Watford. COVID-19 protocol held McGinn and Ramsey out on the Brentford match.
Smith added that Bertrand Traore has “trained the last couple of days,” suggesting he may be available at Chelsea. Morgan Sanson may also feature in the match-day squad.
In addition to Martinez and Buendia, Villa will be without Carney Chukwuemeka and Jaden Philogene-Bidace, who picked up knocks with the England U-19’s and U-20’s, respectively.
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has ruled out N’Golo Kante and Christian Pulisic for Saturday’s match. Kante got hurt in the draw with Liverpool, and Pulisic went off injured in the U.S. National Team’s 3-1 win at Honduras on Wednesday night.
Romelu Lukaku came back from the international break with a leg issue but has been given the go-ahead to feature vs. Villa. Thiago Silva is all but ruled out following FIFA’s controversial ban for players called up for Brazil in the last window.
Formations: Will Dean Smith line-up Aston Villa in a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3?
With Danny Ings and Watkins now fully fit, Smith has a decision to make: line-up his squad in a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3 formation?
The gaffer has said the club signed Ings to play alongside Watkins, who, by all accounts, will not play in a wide position.
That signal’s Smith’s intent to play in a 4-4-2. But is Chelsea the right opponent to line up with two forwards against? The London side typically plays in a 3-4-2-1, with Jorginho slotted in as one of two holding midfielders.
In a 4-4-2, Villa could be exposed in the space between the two forwards and two central midfielders. If Jorginho has free range in front of the Chelsea back three, Villa could be in for a long afternoon.
That said, Smith will likely be anxious to see the strike-force duo of Ings and Watkins in action, and there’s certainly a case to be made for the 4-4-2. With two forwards to contend with, Chelsea’s central defenders will have their hands full. But Villa, lighter in midfield, may struggle to get service to their forwards.
Aston Villa projected Starting XI: Steer; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; El Ghazi, Douglas Luiz, McGinn, Bailey; Watkins, Ings
Chelsea projected Starting XI: Mendy; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; Hudson-Odoi, Jorginho, Kovacic, Chilwell; Mount, Havertz; Lukaku
Date/time: Saturday, September 11 at 5:30 PM BST/12:30 PM EST
Ground: Stamford Bridge
Referee: Stuart Attwell
TV/Streaming UK: Sky Sports
TV/Streaming US: NBC