Despite being involved in just two competitions for most of the season, losing in the first round of both the domestic cups (both times to Manchester City), Chelsea somehow have ended up with a most congested April, which will see us contest nine (9) games in the span of just 29 days — a game practically every three days.
The first of those is an epic midtable showdown on Saturday against Aston Villa, who are one place behind us in 11th just on goal difference. A top-six is not of the reach of either, certainly not mathematically, and Villa are targeting at least a top-10 upper half of the table finish. They’re up for this game that’s a massive “this is our life now” downer for us, especially after collecting 10 out of the 12 points available from their previous four games.
“When I arrived here we were struggling at the bottom of the table, but the reaction from the players, club, supporters and coaches was amazing and we have now really escaped from the bottom positions.
“Now we can think about a new challenge and that challenge is to be in the top 10. We have this opportunity starting this Saturday and the challenge we have in front is amazing for everybody.”
-Unai Emery; source: F365
Unai Emery and Graham Potter working from the same Midtable Phrase Book, clearly. Fantastic challenge and opportunity.
Date / Time: Saturday, April 1, 2023, 17.30 BST; 12:30pm EDT; 10pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Andy Madley (on pitch): Tony Harrington (VAR)
Forecast: Rainy and a bit windy
On TV: Sky Sports Main Event (UK); USA, Universo (USA); Star Sports Select HD2 (India); SuperSport Premier League (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live, Telemundo Deortes En Vivo (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Chelsea team news: Chelsea’s injury situation is improving but remains concerning. Reece James and Kai Havertz are apparently good, but Mason Mount and N’Golo Kante are set for bench duty at most. Christian Pulisic’s battling a cold, while Raheem Sterling and Wesley Fofana are still with Thiago Silva and Cesar Azpilicueta on the sidelines — Azpi’s concussion has now kept him out for several weeks, well beyond the standard weeklong protocol, which is a bit scary.
Similarly, Chelsea’s results have been improving, but do remain concerning. The 2-2 draw against Everton felt like another step back after the rousing wins of the preceding fortnight, and more concerningly the underlying metrics (such as shots and shots on target given up) haven’t really changed from what we saw during the horrendous five-month run that preceded it.
Asked where we need to improve, Graham Potter highlighted every area of the team, which is funny, in part because it is true.
Aston Villa team news: Former Arsenal boss Unai Emery returned to the Premier League to take over Villa at the start of November, and has since changed their fortunes markedly, winning 8 of his 14 league matches (two draws) in charge. They have gone from a relegation battle to midtable safety, and are currently working on a four-match unbeaten run (three wins), with just one goal conceded.
Their squad was strengthened by the January arrivals of left Alex Moreno (not to be confused with ex-Liverpool amuser Alberto Moreno) and the signing of teenage defender John Duran from Chicago Fire (Gaga’s former team and teammate). Ollie Watkins meanwhile has picked up the goalscoring slack — 7 goals since the World Cup — in the wake of Danny Ings’ departure.
Previously: Once a massive bogey team, Chelsea have the last three league matchups, including a 2-0 win earlier this season — Mason Mount with the somewhat fortuitous brace and Kepa with a most amazing triple-save propelling us to victory.