Aston VIlla leapfrogged Chelsea on the Premier League table with a decisive 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, sending the hosts to the bottom half of the table after 28 games of the 2022-23 season.
Ollie Watkins lofted Kepa Arrizabalaga in the first half and John McGinn spun a pearler past the Spanish keeper in the second half as Villa deserved every bit of the 39th, 40th, and 41st points they’ve claimed this season.
WATCH CHELSEA v ASTON VILLA FULL MATCH REPLAY STREAM – LINK
Once a relegation candidate, Unai Emery’s changed Villa into a fringe candidate for the top seven. The Villans’ 41 points have them ninth on the table, two points back of the top seven.
Chelsea drops into 11th with its 38 points and now has a negative goal differential. Heady times for Graham Potter and his Blues, who did see N’Golo Kante make his first appearance since late summer.
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Chelsea: Lots of fun attackers, but do any of the pieces fit?
Perhaps Graham Potter feels pressure to plug Todd Boehly’s purchases into the Starting XI, but the Chelsea’s trident lacks a barbed focal point.
Kai Havertz can score — he had a goal in each of Chelsea’s last two Premier League games — and has size but he does neither of those things in the way you expect of a ‘Big Six’ center forward. If he did it regularly, the Blues’ wingers would be climbing up the Premier League assist charts.
But that doesn’t forgive Mykhailo Mudryk, who scudded a breakaway chanced into the arms of Emiliano Martinez. And Joao Felix is a fun player but continues to look like a player who is ages away from his reputation (and he’s now 23, no longer 18).
Noni Madueke took Mudryk’s place after 58 minutes and showed bright spots but shouldn’t be expected to be saving games for Chelsea at this stage in his career. Christian Pulisic entered late and forced an acrobatic save out of Emiliano Martinez.
Raheem Sterling will return from injury and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be available selection soon but this performance made it seem like Chelsea’s past few games weren’t the cleaning up of a mess but the shoving of most of it under the bed, hoping that no one finds it’s still there.
Aston Villa is good
It’s as simple as that: Unai Emery has organized a group of players who are capable of getting results and they all seem to understand their roles.
That doesn’t mean that Watkins won’t miss a chance here or there — he did before scoring at The Bridge — or that there won’t be lapses at the back on occasion.
But Villa knows its job and also the goals of the opponent: Countless Chelsea crosses never reached their back post targets because Tyrone Mings and friends were ready for them.
And when Villa got the ball? Zooooom.
If Villa can manage a top seven place, it will not have been unearned by the players and, especially, their new boss.
Graham Potter reaction: Chelsea performed but didn’t finish, made errors
“We were second best,” Potter said on USA Network after the game. “The first goal for them is disappointing from our perspective. We need to do a little bit better there of course, but there’s a lot of good things in the game, attacking play, attacking entries, shots. Look at the stats of the game and it’s a positive performance but in terms of the score line it’s not because we’re down in the game.”
Chelsea vs Aston Villa player ratings: Stars of the Show
The Blues host Liverpool on Tuesday in one of the least consequential matches between the two sides in recent history, then head to the Molineux on Saturday to tangle with Wolves.
Villa gets a scrap with Leicester City at the King Power on Tuesday and then hosts Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
Ollie Watkins goal video: Villa’s in-form striker feasts on Chelsea error
John McGinn goal: Goal of the Month contender makes it 2-0
How to watch Chelsea vs Aston Villa live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 12:30pm ET, Saturday
TV Channel: USA Network
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com
Key storylines & in-form players to watch
Chelsea have so many players stepping up in recent weeks but Joao Felix and Kai Havertz have really got going in attack. The duo are scoring goals, creating chances and Chelsea look much more confident when they get into the final third. Enzo Fernandez and Benoit Badiashile have both slotted in seamlessly following their January moves. Yes, Chelsea are still a long way back when it comes to the top four but they are they kind of team who can go on a long unbeaten run and they certainly have so many options with a massive squad of players all pushing to start in this new fluid 3-4-3 system.
Villa’s recent success has been built on solid defense and Emiliano Martinez in goal and Tyrone Mings at center back have been back to their best. Ollie Watkins leading the line always causes problems and midfield creators and wingers always seem to be ready to counter and cause a surprise. Emery has done a remarkable job at Villa and it will be a lot of fun to see how close they can get to a top six finish this season.
Chelsea team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Thiago Silva (knee), Armando Broja (knee), Raheem Sterling (hamstring), Edouard Mendy (shoulder), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (back), Cesar Azpilicueta (head), Wesley Fofana (thigh)
Your Chelsea today! 🔵#CheAvl pic.twitter.com/lk5dYNn2l2
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) April 1, 2023
Aston Villa team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Jed Steer (calf), Philippe Coutinho (thigh), Matty Cash (calf).
This is your Aston Villa team to face Chelsea. 👊 #CHEAVL pic.twitter.com/507zqL3tlc
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) April 1, 2023