If last week's 5-0 drubbing by Arsenal was any indication, Aston Villa aren't very good against the top teams. The best win of the year for the Claret and Blues was a 1-0 victory over Liverpool. Paul Lambert's team has also managed one-all draws against Southampton and Manchester United. However, outside of those three results, it's difficult to say there were any results that were better than expected.
Obviously the problem lies within the fact that this team simply cannot score. They have the lowest goal total in the football league, and with Hamburger SV scoring three goals yesterday, the lowest across Europe's top five leagues. (And probably more, so if you look into the fact, comment so below.) As Robert and I talked about on this week's podcast, Villa need to go scoreless for just two and a half more matches until they break the record for the longest scoreless streak in league history.
Despite his futility this season, Christian Benteke remains undroppable from the starting eleven. This needs to change, just for the sake of change if anything. No, neither Andi Weimann nor Gabby Agbonlahor has been
great good average useful ummm acceptable this season, but that's not the point. The big Belgian could use some motivation, and maybe sitting him for a half could provide that. Plus, Tuesday's match against Hull is much more important. If you looked up "relegation six-pointer" in the dictionary, you'd find that match listed as an example. Saying it's huge is an understatement, it could be season-defining. Lose that, and you might as well give up hope. Both teams will be going for the win, but both are so bad that it will probably end in a draw.
Anyways, since squad rotation is going to need to be a thing, why not give Leandro Bacuna a chance as well? He was an unused substitute last Sunday at the Emirates, and the last time we saw him was in the 2-1 FA Cup win over Bournemouth. He was useful then. Another player who could or maybe should get another chance is Charles N'Zogbia. I'm probably going to get murdered in the comments section for even thinking to suggest such a notion, but the Frenchman hasn't played in a while and remember, we're playing Chelsea so this match is basically a throwaway.
The defence could stay unchanged, as Kieran Richardson did alright in the last match. His pace was a necessary feature in an attempt to try to nullify Theo Walcott. I wouldn't complain if Aly Cissokho came back in though. On Twitter, Alex suggested that Shay Given could come in for Brad Guzan. I'm not going to say that I would be 100 percent in favour of such a move, but I'm not totally against it either, especially with Hull just three days after. If Guzan picked up a knock against Chelsea, Given would have to play two matches in a four-day period, which is slightly less than ideal.
In midfield, there are now a multitude of permutations due to the transfer business that was conducted. Adding Carles Gil and Scott Sinclair was solid business, and keeping Tom Cleverley helps the depth. I think that Gil maybe should sit this one out or come off the bench, again, due to the need to have him fresh for Tuesday. Sinclair should get the start on the left wing though, in a flat 4-5-1. Pack the middle of midfield with Fabian Delph, Carlos Sánchez and Ashley Westwood. Bacuna on the right.
José Mourinho favours a 4-2-3-1 formation. Even with a couple of bans and injuries that the Blues have, their starting eleven will be very strong. Diego Costa is suspended, and Cesc Fàbregas, Willian and Jon Obi Mikel face late fitness tests to return. Not that they will necessarily be needed, as the replacements would be more than capable. Villa may even get to be the guinea pigs for a Juan Cuadrado test run! Hooray!
Projected Chelsea lineup: (4-2-3-1)
Petr Čech; Branislav Ivanović, Kurt Zouma, John Terry, Cesar Azpilicueta; Ramires, Nemanja Matić; Juan Cuadrado, Oscar, Eden Hazard; Didier Drogba.
My Aston Villa lineup: (4-5-1)
Brad Guzan; Alan Hutton, Jores Okore, Ciaran Clark, Aly Cissokho; Leandro Bacuna, Ashley Westwood, Carlos Sánchez, Fabian Delph, Scott Sinclair; Andreas Weimann.
What would you go for, lineup-wise? Let us know in the comments!