The prospect of travelling to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea has become decidedly less daunting in recent times, with Jose Mourinho’s reigning Premier League champions falling from grace in dramatic fashion.
Modest sides such as Swansea, Crystal Palace and Southampton have all visited West London this term and left with unexpected points, as the Blues look like a shadow of their former imposing selves.
Aston Villa are the visitors to Stamford Bridge this weekend and will enter the encounter lacking confidence after a recent run of bad form and worse results. The Birmingham-based outfit have only amassed four points from their first eight games and are already looking like a side that could be set for a relegation scrap under Tim Sherwood in 2015-16.
That said, although few will back the Villa Park outfit to get anything other than beaten against Chelsea, the visitors should have done their homework this week and followed the examples of the afore-mentioned sides that have prospered at Stamford Bridge.
A lack of pace in the Blues’ backline has become apparent this term, with John Terry dropped from the team and Branislav Ivanovic being relegated from one of the division’s most uncompromising enforcers to a perceived weak link in Mourinho’s XI.
As such, Villa would be advised to make use of the sprightly attackers that they have available to them, especially in wide areas, to put the hosts under a bit of pressure. Sherwood has played around with his formation this term and shifted to a 3-5-2 in the team’s last game, a 1-0 home defeat to Stoke.
The thinking behind this was in an effort to provide more service from the flanks for towering striker Rudy Gestede, who has already proven his aerial menace at this level.
Regardless of which system Sherwood uses this weekend, getting the likes of Scott Sinclair and Adama Traore on the ball and attacking their opposite numbers is vital if the visitors are to have any joy. Sinclair will have extra motivation to perform due to his days on the West London club’s books, but it will be interesting to gauge just where he is deployed at his former stomping ground. The versatile attacker has been playing in a second striker role, but utilising him on the left wing against Ivanovic surely makes more sense on this occasion.
Traore has had his injury concerns since leaving Barcelona for Villa Park but in the short amount of time he has had for Sherwood’s men already looks like a dangerous customer.
With the youngster now ready to be selected, getting the ball to him, as Swansea did with Jefferson Montero, could be a tactic that pays dividends.
Chelsea will enter the game as favourites, but Villa’s pace in wide areas could well be the reason for the hosts continued woes.