CHELSEA take on Aston Villa on Saturday. Jack Wright (@JackWright_BSB ) is on-hand to preview the match-up.
Chelsea vs Aston Villa | Saturday 11th September 2021, 17:30 | Sky Sports
I’m going to preview all the key markets for you before putting forward my strongest selection for the match as title-chasing Chelsea aim to become only the second club after Manchester United to reach 600 English Premier League wins by claiming a sixth victory in seven home EPL meetings with Aston Villa.
What a turnaround it has been under Thomas Tuchel since his arrival in January, picking up 45 points (W13, D6, L3) from his 22 league games in charge, conceding just 14 goals in the process – in that period only champions Manchester City have claimed a bigger haul – what's more they just seem to be getting better.
Anyone who watched the Blues navigate an entire second half with 10 men to claim a valuable point at Anfield in their last league outing before the international break couldn’t fail to be impressed and will acknowledge they will surely be right there challenging when the medals are handed out in May.
The Champions League holders put on a tremendous character filled display of brilliant defending and watertight organisation with what seems a complete buy in to what their head coach is building at the club as they showed the different ‘dirty' side of a successful team following emphatic EPL wins and performances against Crystal Palace and Arsenal all of which came after adding the Super Cup to their trophy cabinet.
One of those three managers to emerge victorious from their tussle with Tuchel will be in the opposition dug out here with Dean Smith having guided his side to a 2-1 win in May – however that was at Villa Park…and with a certain Jack Grealish in the lineup.
It’s been a sluggish start from the Villains without their talisman picking up one point from two games against newly promoted Watford and Brentford, beating Newcastle in between – while the absence of Argentinian duo the two Emi’s, Martinez and Buendia will be a big blow.
Despite scoring five goals, picking up four points to be placed 11th in the embryonic EPL table – those figures disguise a concern that the underlaying stats expose – Villa actually have the lowest non-penalty Expected Goals (npxG) of just 1.4.
The replacements for Grealish will have to step up quickly or be constantly reminded of how the team under performs in his absence – last season with the 26-year-old in the side Villa averaged 1.8 points per game – equating to 68 points over a full season, enough for 4th place in 2020/21.
Without the man Manchester City snapped up for a cool £100m Villa averaged just 0.94 points per game – a season total of 36 and just enough to avoid the drop and a 17th place finish.
It’s impossible to look further than a Chelsea win although at odds as short as 1 /4 it’s also impossible to back them in the outright market – however given that incredible defence, coupled with their visitors struggles to adapt to life post JG there is a very appealing option at even money – Chelsea to win to nil with BetVictor.
It’s no surprise to see Romelu Lukaku favourite in the first goalscorer market, celebrating his 100th cap for Belgium in the only way he knows how by plundering his 67th international goal last weekend.
He’s also a bit of a nemesis for the midlands side, scoring in his last five EPL games against them – they must have been thrilled when Roman Abramovic dusted off his notorious chequebook to bring him back to these shores at a reported cost of £97.5m!
There may be a reprieve for Villa however, with the 28-year-old revealing he needed a scan on a troublesome thigh injury he has had for a while, prior to returning to London.
It is unclear what he means by “a while”, he's been a regular for Belgium and hasn't shown any signs of struggling, with four goals in four games for club and country already this term and 30 strikes in 44 appearances for Inter Milan last season.
If fit enough to start Lukaku is a worthy 5/2 favourite but it could be worth looking elsewhere given those fitness concerns if you do fancy a play in this market.
Discounting the Belgian, Mason Mount (17/2) has had the most attempts at goal, firing in seven shots, with two on target and has the best npxG of 0.8, while Kai Havertz (5/1) has the most from inside the area (4) and it is a best priced 9/2 for Christian Pulisic (doubtful) who has the best npxG per shot of 0.18.
For a chunkier price, Marcus Alonso appeals – having had no international commitments, one goal already to his name this season from three shots of which two were on target and playing in a position which was exploited by Ben Chilwell last campaign against Aston Villa.
Chilwell scored Chelsea’s only goal in the aforementioned defeat at Villa Park and provided the assist for Olivier Giroud to head home the opener in this fixture last year – so clearly there is joy to be had down the left and Alonso is more than capable of taking advantage of that – odds of 14/1 with Bet365 are big enough to play each-way.
Having already covered the European champions defensive strength it is understandable to see the bookies price up the Both Teams To Score market in favour of ‘No' with a best priced 4/6 available – while Over 2.5 Goals being the favourite outcome in that market at 5/6 with a repeat of the 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace in no way out of the question.
In both those markets preference for me would be to add in a Chelsea win (with Sky Bet’s BTTS No at 5/2) or up the goals line to Under 3.5 making a 10/11 shot with the same company.
Chelsea have kept 13 clean sheets in those 22 Tuchel led league games, only twice seeing Over 3.5 Goals, strangely in consecutive games over the space of a crazy week against Crystal Palace, a 4-1 away win which followed a freak 2-5 home loss to West Brom.
On to one of my favourite markets, and only Liverpool games have seen more corners (41) than the 37 taken in Chelsea’s opening three fixtures.
The Blues have taken 16 flag kicks so far with only three in that ‘backs to the wall' fixture at Anfield dropping their average, where they managed only one in the second half when down to 10 men, Villa have taken only 10 with a high of four in the defeat at Watford and only conceded eight – both Brentford and the Hornets only managing to visit the quadrant twice each.
The match line seems high at 11+ for me to take on with none of Villa’s games coming close yet, (6, 7, 5) although two of Chelsea’s have crossed that with 17 at Arsenal and 15 at Liverpool – their only home game so far only saw seven in what was a comprehensive victory over the Eagles.
A lot will depend on game situation and if the home side are chasing then both the total number as well as their own line of 7+ will likely be crossed – a similar outcome to the Palace game and I expect similar corner numbers.
Stuart Attwell is the man in the middle for this clash and has taken charge of 17 EPL matches in 2021 showing a total of 57 yellow and 3 red cards with an average of 37.94 booking points per game (based on 10 points for a yellow, 25 for a red, maximum of 35 points per player) – he also took charge of both the games between these two teams last season.
The game at Stamford Bridge saw three yellow cards for the home side and one for the visitors but at Villa Park he ended the season with a bang flashing seven yellow cards, three for Villa and four for Chelsea plus a straight red for Cesar Azpilicueta – it will be interesting to see if there is any carry over from that.
This season Tuchel’s team had no cautions in the opening two games but saw two yellows and a red all in first half injury time at Anfield – to go all second half without troubling Anthony Taylor again, once more shows the disciplined nature of their performance, while Villa have collected seven yellows so far with three in each of their last two games.
Chelsea games have averaged 25 booking points with none at all in their only home game to date, in contrast Villa’s games have seen an average of 56.67 per game.
Given their contrasting stats for the season so far and that the red card for Chelsea was a result of a handball on the line rather than an aggressive tackle, plus the yellow for Mendy after that was for contesting the decision – it's interesting to note the visitors are priced up at even money to collect more booking points than their hosts.
That completes my breakdown of the main markets for this game, all that is left for me to do is select my best bet and it has to be Chelsea to win-to-nil at even money.