Chelsea vs. Aston Villa Preview: Key Battles to Watch
Villa endured a poor start to the campaign, but a recent upturn in results has seen them rise up to 14th in the Premier League table. They have also secured themselves a place in the League Cup semifinal, and could potentially meet the Blues in the final.
Meanwhile, after a storming start to the season, Chelsea suffered a dip in form that has left them 13 points behind league leaders Manchester United (with a game in hand). However, recent results have included their first league win in eight games—against Sunderland—and earned them a League Cup semifinal berth.
The last five matches at Stamford Bridge between these two teams have produced 28 goals. If recent history is anything to go by, we are in for a treat.
Here are three of the key battles that could decide the match on Sunday.
Fernando Torres vs. Brad Guzan
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After over 12 hours without a league goal, Fernando Torres scored twice against Sunderland in Chelsea's last league fixture. Since then, he has cropped up with a further two goals in three games.
He remains the Blues' top scorer with 13 goals, but we are still waiting to see if he can produce regularly—when it matters.
This week, he will face a hard task in Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Expect Torres to have chances. Therefore, much will depend on Guzan's saves, as well as Torres' ability to put those chances away.
David Luiz vs. Christian Benteke
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The goals have not come easy for Villa this season, but Christian Benteke has managed to help turn that around. The striker has four goals in his last five games, and will be looking to add to that at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
David Luiz is a player that polarizes opinion almost as much as Torres, but he has performed well of late, and will be the most important player in the Chelsea defence. If he has a good game, Chelsea can expect a good result. If not, Villa will certainly have chances, and Benteke must be the one to take them.
Frank Lampard vs. Ashley Westwood
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In the middle of the field, we will see a battle of youth versus experience, as Frank Lampard and Ashley Westwood go head to head.
With Jon Obi Mikel suspended, Benitez is likely to start Lampard in a similar holding role to the one he played against Leeds in midweek.
Paul Lambert recently compared Westwood to a different Premier League veteran, calling him "mini Scholes" (via AVFC.co.uk). Expect him to give Lampard a tough time in what is not the Chelsea midfielder's favored role, but if the younger man is to have an impact on this match, he will still have his work cut out for him.