How Aston Villa Can Stop Hazard, Mata, Torres and Chelsea
Despite the home side netting after just six minutes, Arsenal lacked a verve and vigour to compound Villa to an early season defeat—a defeat of which many fans thought was coming following the Birmingham side's miserable 2012/13 campaign.
Chelsea's opening weekend victory—a comprehensive 2-0 win over Hull—was exactly what was expected of the Blues. The Yorkshire-based outfit could simply not cope with the attacking threat of Chelsea in the opening half hour.
As reported by Ron Lewis in The Times, Bruce said:
They were incredible the first 20, 25 minutes.
With the Special One (Jose Mourinho) coming back it was always going to be difficult for us.
We've got many games to play where we won't be playing Chelsea every week, thankfully.
With a bitter taste of an 8-0 defeat still fresh in the mouth from Boxing Day 2012, Villa will most certainly look to stifle Chelsea's attacking threat and hit them on the counter.
But if there's any chance of them leaving West London with a point—or possibly all three—then here's how they'll do it.
In Chelsea's victory over Hull, the Yorkshire side, due to being a newly promoted team, made one fatal error, a very naive error as they sat back, attempting to soak up the Blues' pressure with a quite clear plan to attack whenever there was a lull in play.
It didn't come. Chelsea attacked in waves, forever knocking on the Tigers' door until it finally gave in as Man of the Match Kevin De Bruyne slipped in Oscar—the Brazilian prodding the ball past Allan McGregor to break the deadlock.
Who will win Wednesday's Premier League fixture at Stamford Bridge?
A stunning Frank Lampard free kick doubled Chelsea's lead and that, as they say, was that. As of the 25th minute the game was over. Mourinho's side continued to dominate but took their foot off the gas, seeing out the contest in a fashion typical of Chelsea during Mourinho's first stint in charge. A stint that saw him collect five trophies in three years.
Villa boss Paul Lambert will know that if his side go behind early on then there's a slim chance of getting anything from the game. Lambert's first task on Wednesday night will be to survive the barrage that is sure to ensue in the opening minutes.
With Eden Hazard and Juan Mata—who missed out in Chelsea's match against Hull—operating from the wings, helped by Ashley Cole and Branislav Ivanovic overlapping, Villa's back line will need to be disciplined and will certainly require help from the men in front of them.
But, of course, with the midfielders helping out their defensive unit, moving the ball up the field could prove difficult. So Lambert will need to find a balance between keeping resolute at the back while having options further upfield as his side search for a goal, because, although Villa have a more experienced and sturdy defence in comparison to Bruce's Hull, trying to keep out Chelsea for an entire 90 minutes is one of the tougher challenges a Premier League outfit will have to endure this year.
As well as the threat from either flank, Villa will have to contend with the effervescent Lampard, who has a knack of scoring against the the Midlands-based side—the midfielder grabbing both goals in last season's 2-0 victory at Villa Park.
The 35-year-old has consistently been one of the Premier League's outstanding players in recent years and is renowned for his trademark late arrival into the penalty area—a move that has seen him surpass Bobby Tambling's goal scoring record. Some feat for a midfielder.
And if Villa are to limit Lampard's chances then Lambert is sure to have a player watch the England midfielder like a hawk throughout the 90 minutes. Fabian Delph or Karim El Ahmadi will be in charge of tracking the evergreen Lampard, covering Chelsea's hero as he makes those late dashes into the Villa box.
And finally, if the visiting side are to grab anything from the game then they will need to stop Chelsea's front man. Fernando Torres was preferred to the marauding Romelu Lukaku on Sunday and after a steady, if not outstanding performance, should feature again tonight.
Fans and players alike know that Torres is someone that thrives when his confidence is high. Fortunately for Villa, the Spanish striker didn't get on the scoresheet against Hull so won't be at his very best—although Torres has the ability to turn it on seemingly out of nowhere.
The Villa defenders will target the 29-year-old and are sure to do it early on in the game. Captain Ron Vlaar, referred to as "Beton Ron" is his native Netherlands—beton meaning "concrete," will be keen on getting on top of Torres whenever he can.
Vlaar and his central defensive partner, whether that be Ciaran Clark or Jores Okore, who gave the Spaniard hell during Chelsea's Champions League fixture against Nordsjaelland last season, need to be firm and demanding but not rash in their challenges as they look to dent the front man's confidence from the off.
Being rash with Torres is not the way to go. He possesses the quality of one of the world's best strikers, even if it doesn't always show, and has the ability to make the Premier League's best defenders look foolish if they're not careful.
Villa can get something out of the game, and discipline is the key. But with the return of Mourinho and the crowd behind their beloved Chelsea, Villa won't want to be a rabbit caught in the headlights of the big blue juggernaut.
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