There are few luxuries in the Premier League like having Diego Costa.
Yet today (Saturday) may be one of the few times Chelsea may not need their striker, who will serve the second of his three-match suspension as the front-runners face toothless Aston Villa in the Midlands.
While Costa continues to be a spectator, Chelsea acquired a key reinforcement before the close of the transfer window by landing attacking midfielder Juan Cuadrado from Italian side Fiorentina. The Colombia international will also be eligible for Champions League matches since he only competed in the Europa League with Firenze.
“This is a great club and honestly it is like a dream to join the Chelsea family and to know the manager believes in me,” Cuadrado said after signing a four-and-a-half year deal.
Cuadrado will also serve as an insurance policy for manager Jose Mourinho as playmaker Cesc Fabregas continues to deal with a hamstring knock that kept him out of last Saturday’s 1-1 draw versus Manchester City as the Pensioners retained their five-point lead atop the table.
Cuadrado’s arrival also signaled the departure of Mohamed Salah and Andre Schurrle, who joined Fiorentina and Wolfsburg, respectively.
Mourinho’s roster tightening means his primary three strikers will be Costa, Loic Remy and Didier Drogba going forward.
Remy may have earned himself another start after providing Chelsea the lead on 41 minutes versus City.
The Blues have gone 2-1-2 in their last five matches on the road after claiming 15 points from their first seven outside Stamford Bridge.
“We still have a long way to go – 15 games is a long way – and we have to stay focused,” said Branislav Ivanovic, who is dealing with a foot injury. “It’s very difficult to judge at the moment.”
Aston Villa’s punchless offence has reached a dubious sense of futility, with their 11 goals through 23 matches currently matching the pace of the 2007-08 Derby County squad that finished with a Premier League era-low 20.
Despite their current 612-minute scoreless drought in league play and overall paucity of goals, Villa are still incredibly three points clear of the drop as they enter this match with three losses on the bounce as part of an overall eight-match winless streak (0-3-5).
“The chances are just not going in for us at the moment,” Fabian Delph told Villa’s official website. “The boys are working hard in training so I’m sure that’ll change.”
Villa’s drought currently ranks seventh in the Premier League era, and if Chelsea keeps them at bay in the first half-hour, it will vault to fourth – passing two Everton scoreless spells of 615 and 641 minutes, respectively, around one of 621 minutes by Sheffield United.
Six of Villa’s goals have come inside the first 30 minutes.
The pressure of failing to produce offensively finally caused the defence to burst Sunday, when the Villans conceded four goals in the final 45 minutes of a 5-0 hammering by Arsenal in their heaviest defeat of the season.
“The goals we conceded were sloppy errors by us and we caused our own mistakes,” Delph added. “It wasn’t a happy dressing room after the game.”
Villa have not scored since Christian Benteke provided a lead in the 18th minute of an eventual 1-1 draw versus Manchester United on Dec. 20.
Chelsea produced a workmanlike 3-0 victory in the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge as Oscar, Costa and Willian all scored. Villa have dropped five of the last six between the teams, but the lone win came last season at Villa Park, where Delph’s goal eight minutes from time provided three points.
Source: ScoreMobile FC