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Two clubs, two awful starts: Chelsea blogger on the struggling Champions

As the Premier League returns to action after the international break, Aston Villa will attempt to turn things around against fellow strugglers Chelsea (never thought I'd write those words).

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Believe it or not, Chelsea are only two places above Aston Villa, and it's already deep into October. We may be used to low expectations, but the Champions certainly aren't. With that in mind, we reached out to Matt from Chelsea FC Blog to find out what exactly is going on over at Stamford Bridge.

I think it's safe to say no one was expecting this kind of start from Chelsea. What's gone wrong for the Champions at the start of the season? Is it a matter of tactics? Personnel?

CFCB: No one really knows, and of course everyone has their opinion or conspiracy theory. My thoughts are simply that we appear to be way off the pace compared to most teams in the league.

I blame a poor pre-season and the dreaded world tour that comes with being a club that has global sponsorship obligations (during the close season we travelled to Thailand, Australia and the USA). There are also rumours that the number of pre-season training sessions completed by the squad was way below the normal amount for Premier League clubs.

He's recently been backed by the club, but how long does Mourinho have to turn things around before he's seriously under pressure? Or have we reached that point already?

CFCB: He's certainly under pressure and I think the biggest factor is whether Abramovich et al feel he still has the dressing room. After this weekend we'll have a better idea of Mourinho's position. I think everyone will be expecting a win at home to Villa and any other result will just raise more questions and turn up the heat further.

I'm a bit curious about what the fans think about Mourinho. The front office has supported him, but his refusal to take responsibility and constant excuses give plenty of reasons to dislike the Special One. Are Blues fans standing by him and his past record? Or are they turning on him?

CFCB: I don't think people are turning on him just yet. There are certainly frustrations with his team selections being repetitive and a reluctance to try new systems/players/formations but the vast majority of fans are right behind him and are prepared to give him a fair shot at turning our form around.

I think the overriding feeling for fans is confusion. To see a team go from such convincing champions to looking like we will concede every time a team attacks us really doesn't make sense. And of course no one can answer why.

Okay, let's assume that Chelsea and Mourinho get this thing figured out. What are expectations for the rest of the season? Would fans now be satisfied with a top 4 finish? Does anyone still think they can overcome their terrible start and repeat as Champions?

CFCB: Despite the start, I genuinely do. The Premier League is an interesting one this year in that it seems wide open and is pretty much anyone's for the taking. Man City looked so strong early on but even they have shown significant enough weaknesses in recent weeks (e.g. losing at home to West Ham) for me to believe that we can catch anyone.

That said, it'll be no easy task. It likely means we'll have to go undefeated for the remainder of the season which at the moment seems a huge mountain to climb.

Do you think Mourinho will have made any big changes to the side, looking to provide a spark? Diego Costa will be available after his suspension, and after the last match, Mourinho seemed to suggest that it may be time for some younger players to step up.

CFCB: That's what he's been hinting at, and the fans have been asking for. A few of our senior players (Matic, Ivanovic, Fabregas) have come in for some pretty strong criticism and their performances have certainly fallen way short of the bar they set for themselves last year.

The four young players that are knocking on the door are Kurt Zouma (who has been getting some game time already), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (a young defensive midfielder who we are expecting big things of), Baba Rahman (a left back signed on deadline day for 15 million who Jose doesn't have confidence in for Premier League games yet) and Kenedy (probably the most interesting one of all, a 19 year old Brazilian signed in the summer who has already played numerous times - Mourinho doesn't often place so much faith in someone so young so he obviously sees something in him - he's also lightning fast).

Chelsea are obviously a side under immense pressure, but Saturday is a crucial match for Villa as well, desperately needing to pick up points from somewhere. Which side stands to lose more in this match?

CFCB: In my opinion, Chelsea do. We're at home against a team that we're expected to beat quite comfortably. If Villa take home the three points I'm not sure how much longer the powers that be will stick with Jose.

Conversely, an away game at Chelsea is always a tough fixture and regardless of the pressure Sherwood is under, as long as Villa don't get completely obliterated by Chelsea then I think he'll be given more time to turn things around.

If you could pluck one Villa player for Chelsea's squad, who would it be?

CFCB: I think the obvious one is Jack Grealish. He seems like a super talent and I'm sure he'll go far. My hesitation is that if he was at Chelsea he'd join the conveyor belt of young prodigies that end up out on loan and never get given the chance in the first team. The classic case of wasted young English talent.

Therefore I'd probably go for Brad Guzan in this very moment. Courtois is out injured for a considerable amount of time and Begovic just looks devoid of confidence. Of course our start to the season won't have helped him but he just doesn't seem settled at all yet. Guzan seems to be a solid, consistent performer and one that I'd happily take as backup to Courtois longer term.

If Chelsea decide to move on from Mourinho, would you kindly point him our way? It'd be much appreciated.

CFCB: Join the queue! Personally I think he's got the England job on his radar in the not too distant future but he may have to wait a little longer given the way we just qualified for the Euros.

Once again, huge thanks to Matt! Be sure to check out his work and much more over at Chelsea FC Blog!

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