The time is finally upon us. Premier League football has finally returned. With 92 games to be played in 40 days, a new era of football has arrived. The pandemic brought football to an abrupt stop back in March, and since then, teams have been doing all they can to stay fit, keep well and maintain focus.
This is not the case for Chelsea, who have been looking deadly in the two behind-closed-door friendlies they participated in recently. The Blues beat Reading 1-0, thanks to a Pedro winner, and demolished Queens Park Rangers 7 -1, with Ruben Loftus Cheek and Billy Gilmour netting twice, along with goals from Willian, Olivier Giroud and Mason Mount.
Frank Lampard takes his team just over 100 miles north of Stamford Bridge to face an Aston Villa side who prior to the elongated break, found themselves in a real survival battle.
Dean Smith’s side are without a win in their last 6 competitive matches and are a point from safety with 9 games to go.
Villa began the whole season reboot with a 0-0 draw against breakthrough stars Sheffield United, with a controversial decision preventing United from getting maximum points. The Blades can still push for European football next season, but their momentum looked to be affected due to the 3-month break.
Onto the Chelsea game, and Lampard will need to ensure his side can pick up where they left off, after knocking Liverpool out of the FA Cup and sweeping Everton for four before football came to a halt. Despite the stoppage affecting most of the teams in England, Chelsea have not been sleeping, and have resurrected their injured players, who now look fit to start on Sunday, including Ruben Loftus Cheek and Christian Pulisic. So with that being said, what can you expect to see in this game?
Chelsea have shown in their last four fixtures, including the friendlies, that they are not afraid to score goals. They have also shown that they will not remain complacent after taking a one-goal lead, something that they seemed to do in the early stages of the season. With the Blues scoring 14 goals and conceding 1 in their last 4 games, you can expect their target man Tammy Abraham to rattle the net. As well as the number 9, Chelsea are now scoring goals from midfield, something they often failed to do before the break.
Ruben Loftus Cheek
Chelsea’s best-kept secret has had a terribly unfortunate career so far, with injuries setting back the youngsters development time and time again. With the pandemic bringing football to a stop, this may have worked as a blessing in disguise for Loftus Cheek, who has returned to full fitness and has been getting as many minutes as possible under his belt. This will be a major boost for Chelsea, as Loftus Cheek oozes quality when he steps on the pitch, Whether it’s in the starting 11, or a substitute cameo, expect to see the Englishman play on Sunday.
The Premier League governing board recently announced that for the remainder of the season, teams will be allowed to complete 5 substitutions as opposed to 3, which will benefit some teams, but harm others. Chelsea will appreciate this greatly, as their depth in the squad is phenomenal. The possibilities for the starting 11 are endless and with such a strong midfield, who knows who we will see on Sunday. One thing is for certain, however, and that is that Lampard will make full use of the 5 substitutions to ensure his players remain fit and get the minutes they have earned in training.
With Aston Villa beginning the restart with the Blades and then playing against the Blues on Sunday, it will be interesting to see how Smith’s side approach the Chelsea game following their lucky point on Wednesday. Aston Villa still have a mountain to climb if they want to play Premier League football next season, and Lampard will hope he can act as a sufficient block in the road, guiding his side to victory on Sunday.