Chelsea return from the international break to face a struggling Aston Villa side at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. The Villains are currently situated in the relegation zone, but they are only four points and two places off the champions. Manager Jose Mourinho desperately needs a win, not just to get the pressure off his shoulders, but to build confidence ahead of a crunch Champions League tie at Dynamo Kyiv on Wednesday night.
The domestic football break means the last Chelsea match feels like a while ago, but it’s hard to forget Mourinho’s post-match rant. He took on the club’s board, the players and the FA in his seven minute response to a question from Sky. He had been very calm and collected after defeats earlier in the season, but after the Southampton loss the manager seemed to crack.
That’s got to mean this weekend is a must win game for him. No manager has ever survived at Chelsea when the talk of a sacking ramped up, but no manager was every really given the time to fix things. Mourinho was given the backing of the board, and now he’ll have to repay that faith by getting more points on the board. At the minute, there’s just seven points between them and fourth. If that gap gets too big, a change will be made.
With this match becoming so important, it’s a good thing that they face a side in an even worse position. Villa haven’t won since the opening day, and their manager also looks to be under immense pressure. There have been stories about other managers being lined up to take over at Villa Park, with the threat of relegation looming. Tim Sherwood in another man in need of positive results.
Chelsea may have landed on their feet in terms of opposition, but they’ve returned from the internationals below strength. Branislav Ivanovic and Nemanja Matic both picked up injuries while playing for Serbia. Matic looks like he will be back to fitness for this one, but will he even feature after being subbed on and then taken off again by Mourinho last time out?
Ivanovic is a doubt, alongside Gary Cahill who picked up an injury while captaining England last week. That leaves just four fit defenders if they miss out, with Cesar Azpilicueta jumping to right back and Abdul Baba Rahman coming in on the left. That’s a move many fans have called for, so it could work out for the best.
Thibaut Courtois remains out, he’s targeting a December return. On the bright side, Diego Costa is back from suspension. He didn’t travel with Spain last week, so you can imagine that he’s fit and ready to go right now. His return should be the boost that Chelsea need to get back to winning ways, and we’re backing him to be the difference here.
LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-0