Chelsea and Aston Villa both came out winners by two goals on the BPL’s opening weekend; the former a routine two-nil win over Hull City Tigers and the latter a surprise 3-1 victory at the Emirates. (If you’re keeping track Arsenal have already conceded more penalties, two, than the number of new players, one, that they’ve purchased this transfer window) This Wednesday’s matchup (3 pm, NBC Sports) will see the winner top the table in the young season.
The Blues eased their way to a comfortable win, netting two early goals and then cruising in the second half in anticipation of the mid-week clash with Villa. Kevin De Bruyne, who returned from a season long loan with Werder Bremen, contributed with an assist on Oscar’s 11th minute goal. Frank Lampard scored a cracking free-kick on 25 minutes after having an early penalty attempted saved. The second half was a boring affair, with Jose Mourinho urging his team to slow down the pace to conserve energy; Chelsea begin the season by playing three games in 8 days. That stretch will culminate with a visit to Old Trafford on Monday, August 26th. It remains to be seen which squad Mourinho runs out on Wednesday. Does an older Frank Lampard get another start in midweek? Does the erratic Fernando Torres retain his place in the XI? Will Juan Mata return from injury?
The Villians got the first shock victory of the season by winning 3-1 at the Emirates over Arsenal. They fell behind early to an Olivier Giroud Goal, but were level at half-time through a Christian Benteke goal where he headed his saved penalty into the net. Benteke scored a second penalty after Laurent Koscielny made a clumsy tackle inside the penalty area. Koscielny’s day would only get worse after he was sent off for a second yellow-cardable offense. Villa would put the nail in the coffin thanks to a late counter-attacking goal from new signing Antonio Luna. American fans will recognize goalkeeper Brad Guzan. The former Chivas man has made a name for himself in England, routinely keeping a weak Villa side in many games. Aston Villa have a decent enough side, and it wouldn’t come as a shock to see them steal another point or three at Stamford Bridge.
What to watch for
Belgians, Belgians and more Belgians. This matchup could feature as many as four Belgian internationals on the field at once. Chelsea have Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, while Villa will surely run out Christian Benteke in the starting XI. Hazard, Lukaku, and Benteke combined for 45 goals and 19 assists in the premier league. De Bruyne had 10 goals and 9 assists in the Bundesliga for Werder Bremen. If Belguim qualify for the World Cup in Brazil, all four will surely be in the 23 man squad.
Projected Starting XI
Chelsea: Cech; Cole, Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic; Ramires, Van Ginkel; Hazard, De Bruyne, Oscar; Torres
Aston Villa: Guzan; Baker, Vlaar, Luna, Lowtan; El Ahmadi, Westwood, Delph; Weimann, Agbonlaho, Benteke
Villa will make the game interesting, but Chelsea have too much experience in defense to make the same mistakes Arsenal made over the weekend. Aston Villa could, and probably will get on the score sheet through a pesky Christian Benteke, but Chelsea will cruise at home to a 3-1 victory.
Andrew Gerdes contributes to the Dojo’s BPL coverage, and is the Dojo’s resident Major League Soccer expert. Gerdes can now use “we” when referring to a team, thanks to his employment with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.