After what seemed like an eternity thanks in part to transfer deadline day drama, Chelsea return from the latest bit of international distraction, and will be hoping to not skip a beat from our unbeaten start. As we might recall, two wins and an unlucky draw at Anfield see us sitting in the top four already, as one of the six teams yet to lose a match after three games (with Spurs the only ones perfect on the season).
Saturday night’s game against Aston Villa is just the first in a grueling three-week, seven-match stretch, which will see us face Spurs (away) and Manchester City (home) and Southampton (home), in addition to starting our Champions League campaign (Zenit home; Juventus away), plus taking on Villa again, this time in the League Cup. Thomas Tuchel has already called for full focus and determination, and that will be needed from every one of the 25 players in the first-team squad.
Date / Time: Saturday, September 11, 2021, 17.30 BST; 12:30pm EDT; 10pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Forecast: Overcast and warm
Referee: Stuart Attwell (on pitch); Chris Kavanagh (VAR)
On TV: Sky Sports Main Event (UK); NBC, Universo (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); SuperSport MaXimo (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Chelsea team news: Chelsea signed Saúl Ñíguez on transfer deadline day and otherwise continued trimming the bloated senior squad, but the trio of Ross Barkley, Lewis Baker, and Malang Sarr failed to secure moves away and have thus been added to our Premier League squad. Whether they will see any action before presumably trying again in January remains to be seen, but given our congested schedule and the possibility of 60+ games this season, they might be helpful as it’s going to be a challenge to keep legs and minds fresh.
Injuries and COVID-concerns will also play a role once again, and right now we already have N’Golo Kanté and Christian Pulisic out with ankle problems, while Thiago Silva’s status remains up in the air as the Premier League and FIFA have yet to reach an agreement on whether he’s eligible to play or banned for five days after Chelsea held him out of international duty. Fortunately, Romelu Lukaku’s thigh is evidently not a concern, while everyone else including Ben Chilwell should be match fit now as well. We will be without Reece James for this one match owing to his red card against Liverpool.
Aston Villa team news: Unlike the other 19 teams in the Premier League, Villa allowed their players to travel for South American qualifiers — only to be then practically arrested in Brazil for skirting COVID rules — so they will be without isolating Emilianos, Buendia and Martinez. Joining them on the sidelines are Keinan Davis, Trézéguet, and Ezri Konsa who are dealing with various knee injuries. But there’s better news for them with Leon Bailey and Ollie Watkins back to full fitness and Bertrand Traoré, John McGinn, and Jacob Ramsey working their way back as well.
It’s not been a great start to the season for a now John Terry-less Villa — JT now really in golf, it seems — with four points from the first three games plus an easy win over fourth division Barrow in the League Cup, but they do have a couple goals already from new striker Danny Ings. Ings, Bailey, and Buendia were the three main signings to try to help replace £100m-antigravityman Jack Grealish, who tripped, fell, and landed in Manchester City. Former Villa hero Ashley Young is back as well, the second most heartening prodigal son return story in the Premier League this season after Romelu Lukaku’s.
View from the enemy: 7500 to Holte
Previously: We dropped four points against Villa last season, including a 1-1 draw at the Bridge in late December, so let’s just watch some highlights from training over the break, with a focus on new boy Saúl.