The wave of optimism that continued growing following a stellar run of results under Frank Lampard mellowed out last weekend, as Chelsea fell to a disappointing defeat at home to struggling West Ham.
In what can labeled as ‘wake up call’, Lampard and his side will have a chance to make amends when they return to Stamford Bridge to host Aston Villa in the Premier League on Wednesday night.
Their most recent outing didn’t produce a favourable result, but the Blues are still sitting pretty in the top four and will rate their chances against a Villa side with just one win on the road this season. Injuries will play their part for Lampard, but here is how he could lineup against Dean Smith’s men.
Goalkeepers & Defenders
Kepa Arrizabalaga (GK) – The obvious choice when you consider Willy Caballero is far too prone to errors. That said, Kepa has hardly covered himself in glory over recent weeks, with his decision making from crosses and handling not looking as good as it once was. Still, he’ll start.
Cesar Azpilicueta (RB) – Reece James came into the side for the recent loss to West Ham, but the experience of Azpilicueta is priceless and will be key as they look to return to winning ways. James is the future of the club, but for the sake of stability, the Spaniard should return.
Fikayo Tomori (CB) – One of the club’s top performers this season, the young centre-half will likely resume his role in central defence having put in some superb displays since being recalled from his loan at Derby County last season.
Kurt Zouma (CB) – Alongside Tomori, Zouma has overtaken the central defensive slot from Andreas Christensen, as Lampard seems to have firmly settled on his first-choice defensive partnership. Zouma offers something in both boxes, which will come in handy against a side who simply can’t defend set pieces this season.
Marcos Alonso (LB) – Without doubt the weakest link in the Chelsea setup is at left-back. Emerson Palmieri started against the Hammers but failed to cover himself in glory, which could see Alonso brought back into the first-team fold on Wednesday night.
Jorginho (CDM) – From pantomime villain to Stamford Bridge stalwart, Jorginho has won over the Chelsea support with the immense work to puts in from the deep-lying midfield role. Not the most physical or robust, what he lacks in strength he makes up for with his sublime range of pass and exceptional vision.
N’Golo Kante (CM) – Kante has continued his development into a truly world class box-to-box midfielder this season under Frank Lampard, and is a sure-fire starter when fit.
Mateo Kovacic (CM) – The weight of expectation, having not scored a single goal since joining the club, was banished in the Champions League, but Kovacic is another player who looks reborn under Lampard’s tutelage. The Croatian has multiple exciting facets to his game, and is the best carrier of the ball in the midfield three.
Willian (RW) – Balancing experience with youth is a niche that is hard to get right, but Willian’s role in this youthful Chelsea side adds the perfect blend of know-how and exuberance. Could still score more goals for Blues fans’ liking, but is always a threat coming in off the right hand side.
Michy Batshuayi (ST) – The big question: will Tammy Abraham be fit? It is going to be a late call, but it would be safe to assume that Lampard will not want to take any risks if there is any doubt, so Batshuayi may just come into the starting XI. Ahead of Olivier Giroud, it must be added, who was poor against the Hammers.
Christian Pulisic (LW) – From being outcast in some of the season’s earlier matchday squads to becoming one of the first names on the team sheet, Pulisic’s trickery and direct running are of vital importance to open up space for the lone striker in the side.