Willian Red Card: How Chelsea Will Fare in Star's Absence

Stuart NewmanFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2014

Chelsea's Willian, center, leaves the pitch after being sent off during the English Premier League soccer match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park, Birmingham, England, Saturday, March 15, 2014.  (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
Rui Vieira/Associated Press

Chelsea midfielder Willian has given Jose Mourinho lots to think about after he saw red midway through the second half during Chelsea's 1-0 loss at Villa Park on Saturday. The Brazilian was sent off for his second bookable offence following a foul on Fabian Delph, who went on to score the all-important winner with just eight minutes of the match remaining, as reported by Fox Soccer on Twitter:

With Manchester City nipping at Chelsea's heels at the top of the Premier League, the Blues could ill afford a slip up against an Aston Villa side just six points above the relegation zone before the match, but slip up they did.

While Manchester City demonstrated how to earn a result while being a man lighter in their 2-0 win over Hull City earlier on Saturday, the task proved too much for Chelsea, who saw the Premier League pendulum swing their rivals' way during a disastrous second half that also saw Ramires sent off for a poor tackle late on. 

While there were no complaints on the Ramires decision, Willian's match-changing dismissal left Chelsea fans frustrated—Bleacher Report's Garry Hayes, for one, who voiced his thoughts on Twitter:

It was a sentiment that former England striker and BBC presenter Gary Lineker wholeheartedly agreed with in a tweet of his own:

The pair will miss the top-of-the-table clash with Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on 22 March, as the title race heats up once again. Without Willian, Chelsea will likely hand a start to January signing Mohamed Salah, who offers a different approach going forward to Willian. However, can Salah make the same impact on the pitch as him?

Not in my eyes, no. There's no doubting that Salah is a talented player, but he doesn't slot into the three-man attacking midfield system that Mourinho utilises, and that could force the Portuguese manager into a tactical change. With Chelsea facing an in-form Arsenal side in their next match, the last thing they'd need is to change things around in the team, potentially making them a weaker outfit.

It's looking like a two-horse race at the top of the Premier League between Manchester City and Chelsea, but with Chelsea dropping points and having two of their star men suspended for the important showdown with Arsenal, you have to favour the Citizens.