Could Chelsea's Defeat to Aston Villa Impact the Rest of Their Season?

Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2014

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 15:  Ramires of Chelsea (3L) is shown a red card and is sent off by referee Chris Foy after a challenge on Karim El Ahmadi of Aston Villa (L) during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park on March 15, 2014 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

So here we are—a first Premier League defeat since December, and suddenly Chelsea are in crisis. Or that's how the reaction to this weekend's loss against Aston Villa has made it appear.

It's not quite that drastic, although with two players being sent off at Villa Park, suddenly Chelsea's squad is looking thin on bodies in key areas as the Blues enter a vital stage of their campaign.

Balancing his squad over the next few weeks is certainly going to be a challenge for Jose Mourinho.

Chelsea face Galatasaray in West London on Tuesday as they bid to reach the Champions League quarter-finals, with that fixture closely followed by the visit of Arsenal to Stamford Bridge on March 22.

Ramires and Willian may be available for Tuesday, but both will be missing against the Gunners on the back of their indiscretions against Villa.

As for Ramires, he will miss further matches against Crystal Palace and Stoke City. The Brazilian's punishment could be far worse than the automatic three-match ban he will receive for his straight red, too, after his horrific lunge on Karim El Ahmadi.

Ahead of facing Villa, Mourinho had lamented the fact the Premier League schedule meant his team has less time to prepare for the Galatasaray return leg.

As reported by BBC Sport, the Chelsea boss had called for games to be played on Friday nights to help teams in the Champions League, explaining:

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 15:  Willian of Chelsea looks depsondent as he is sent off during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park on March 15, 2014 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images
Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

"If we played on Friday night, it makes a difference to who? It'd be a full house, the same. ... Would it be good for Chelsea? Yes. Would it be good for English football? Yes."

Now he has to rethink his plans altogether for Tuesday.

Whereas Mourinho could have rotated his team against Gala, giving Willian and Ramires reduced roles with the Arsenal game in mind, suddenly both players are now certainties to play the entire 90 minutes.

Arsenal aren't playing midweek, so Mourinho knows he cannot take the risk of fatigue and injuries impacting the game further.

This time of the season is all about balance, resting players at the right times to ensure the entire squad is peaking together; hence why Ramires and Willian will feature heavily on Tuesday to allow others vital recovery time.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 15:  Jose Mourinho manager of Chelsea protests to referee Chris Foy during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park on March 15, 2014 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Get
Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Given the riches they have in attacking midfield, Willian's suspension would have been manageable. After all, the likes of Andre Schurrle and Mohamed Salah are desperate for their opportunity to impress Mourinho on a consistent basis.

It's further back where the problem is.

Without Ramires in league action until April 13 at the earliest, Chelsea have Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel and Nemanja Matic to cover the more defensive positions.

Matic is cup-tied in the Champions League, leaving just Lampard and Mikel available to partner Ramires should Chelsea progress in the competition.

With the quarter-finals being played on April 1-2 and 8-9, Lampard and Mikel are going to be seeing a lot of football.

Some will point to David Luiz as potential midfield cover, but the centre-back is currently struggling with a groin injury. And besides, by moving him further forward, it means John Terry and Gary Cahill will have little time for rest themselves.

Chelsea are still top of the league and favorites to progress in Europe. Their problems could be far worse, but the two dismissals against Aston Villa on Saturday mean the waters around Stamford Bridge appear a little more troubled than they should be.

Mourinho's going to need all his guile to navigate them successfully.

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes