Aston Villa v Chelsea Preview (Premier League) – 7th February 2015

Chelsea will be looking to maintain their five point lead at the top of the table when they travel to Villa Park on Saturday. They’re coming up against an Aston Villa side who have been struggling for goals, and who were hammered 5-0 at Arsenal last weekend, which can’t have been great for morale.

Villa come in to this game just above the drop zone, but they can’t be taken for granted. Last season the Blues came to Villa Park expecting a result, but they ended up suffering a defeat which was a huge blow to their title hopes. Fabian Delph scored the only goal that day, and Villa are desperate for a similar result here. They’ve not scored a league goal since December, and by the time Saturday rolls around their wait for a win will have stretched to two months. In this day and age it’s a wonder Paul Lambert hasn’t been shown the door.

Of course, Chelsea have problems of their own at the minute. They’re currently without top scorer Diego Costa, who is still banned from the Emre Can incident. He will be a big miss for the Blues, but his spot up front should be filled by Loic Remy. The Frenchman scored against Manchester City on Saturday, and he has been impressive in the limited time he’s had on the pitch. Now he has his first run in the first team, he’s going to be eager to impress.

The Blues also have a few injury worries, with Cesc Fabregas, Willian, John Obi Mikel and Filipe Luis all doubts for the game on Saturday. They are in a race to get fit, and without them, particularly Fabregas, Chelsea will be a lot weaker. One man who may play is Juan Cuadrado. The Colombian was a £26 million deadline day signing for the Blues, and he looks set to make his debut at Villa Park.

Hopefully Cuadrado can have the same kind of impact as the other big signings this season, as we’ve seen how Costa and Fabregas have given something different to the team, and hopefully the former Fiorentina man can do the same. He certainly looks to be a different kind of winger to Willian, Eden Hazard and Andre Schurrle, the man he replaced. If Willian isn’t ready in time to face Villa, at least there’s a good option to come in and replace him.

Last season this was the type of game that cost Chelsea, with plenty of missed chances and then a sloppy error allowing Villa in to score. The Blues fell apart that day, and had two players sent off. Without Costa and Fabregas the team isn’t too different from last year, so this is going to be a real test. Hopefully Remy will put a good run of form together after his goal last weekend and given the Villain’s record in front of goal of late, they shouldn’t pose too much of a threat to the leaders backline, so overall a solid victory for the Blues looks on the cards.

LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-0

Chelsea 1-1 Manchester City Match Report – 31st January 2015

Chelsea maintained their five point advantage at the top of the Premier League table after a hard fought draw with Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. The Blues took the advantage in the first half through Loic Remy, but the Champions hit back moments later through David Silva. City dominated in the second half, but Jose Mourinho’s side held on to keep their lead at the top of the table.

The build up to the game was dominated by Diego Costa. The Spaniard was charged and banned in almost record time by the FA ahead of this one, ruling him out for three games. He wasn’t the only one to miss for this game, as Cesc Fabregas and Filipe Luis were injured against Liverpool on Tuesday night, and that ruled them out here. Andre Schurrle are Mo Salah have been linked with moves away, and neither of them were amongst the substitutes. That left the Blues with a very youthful bench, packed with academy players.

The game was close early on, with City just about dominating the possession. It was the home side who made who made the breakthrough just before half time. Willian’s cross found Eden Hazard on the left hand side of the box and he put the ball back across the six yard box right into the path of Remy, and he tapped in to give the Blues the lead.

That lead was short lived, as City hit back moments later. They dispossessed Nemanja Matic, and sent in a cross that Thibaut Courtois flapped at. It went straight to Sergio Aguero, whose shot was deflected in off David Silva. There were a few defensive mistakes in the build-up, which surely won’t please Mourinho.

The Blues were much more solid in the second half, as City put them under the cosh as they tried to close the gap to two points. Kurt Zouma in particular impressed, as he held his own against one of the best strikers in the league. Aguero didn’t get too many chances, barring the one that led to the goal.

Towards the end Chelsea didn’t venture far from the their own goal, and it seemed that the 120 minutes the Blues played on Tuesday had an effect, and City certainly looked the fitter side towards the end. One thing that did help them was the depth of their bench, as Chelsea only had two senior outfield players in reserve. Gary Cahill came on for Remy in the last 10 minutes, as Mourinho showed he was happy to take the point.

City of course had the stronger bench, and their big substitution saw the introduction of the only man who could rival Costa for headlines this week. Frank Lampard came off the bench against his former club, and he was given a warm welcome by the Stamford Bridge faithful, but he was unable to help his new side seize victory.

In end, this point certainly helps Chelsea more than City. They’re still five points clear in the title race, and they were second best in the second half. Without Costa and Fabregas, this really wasn’t a bad result for the Blues.

LCN Man of the Match: Kurt Zouma