Jose Mourinho enjoyed a seemingly ideal start to his second spell as Chelsea manager on Sunday; following the warmest of welcomes from his adoring public at Stamford Bridge, Hull City were essentially brushed aside by half-time. The attacking midfield trio of Oscar, Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne were particularly exceptional in a storming first 30 minutes before the match rather petered out. Ahead of the visit of Aston Villa on Wednesday, Mourinho is eager for his players to maintain that intensity for the full 90 minutes.
“Those are positions where you are always in action, and we were trying to also press the ball, and those three players dipped down,” he explained, according to Chelsea’s website. “We didn't play that way intentionally because at half-time we spoke about trying to start the second half the same direction and kill the game. We couldn't and credit too to Hull because they adapted the game in a different way.
“Because the score was 2-0 I didn't want to change immediately but you could see when I put [Andre] Schurrle and [Romelu] Lukaku on, the team gave a little push that made a difference to that second half.”
Aston Villa will know they face a stern test, but they too should come into the match full of confidence. After a season of battling relegation last campaign, Paul Lambert’s side registered a superb 3-1 win at Arsenal on the opening day to suggest better things are to come this term. Last season’s nadir was reached around a dismal festive period that included a humbling 8-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge. And Lambert believes the lessons learned from results such as those have made his young squad stronger.
"We have improved from last year,” he said, according to Aston Villa’s website. “We have grown into it, grown into the league. They have earned the right after a tough Christmas and New Year period. That spell in a roundabout way made them better. They might not have thought that at the time. But I am pretty sure they will look back during their careers and think 'I'm glad I went through that.'"
Lambert will be without Nathan Baker for the trip to London after the central defender was forced off with an injury at the weekend. Ciaran Clark, who replaced Baker against Arsenal or summer signing Jores Okore should come in. Midfielder Yacouba Sylla has returned to training.
Chelsea have no new injury worries, but David Luiz remains on the sidelines. Mourinho has said that the Brazilian should be available next week. With plenty of options at his disposal, Mourinho may look to rotate his side. Juan Mata is one of those who could come into the lineup after recovering from his minor injury.
D: Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole
M: Ramires, Van Ginkel
Mata, Oscar, Schurrle
Aston Villa (probable)
D: Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Luna
M: El Ahmadi, Westwood, Delph
F: Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor
Prediction: Chelsea looked superb in the opening stages against Hull and if they begin like that again on Wednesday then Villa could well quickly find themselves in a hole. But, as they showed against Arsenal, Villa are a side with more quality than the Blues’ opening opponents. On the counter-attack, Villa were especially impressive and, with Chelsea not having a natural defensive midfielder, they could again have some joy with the pace of their front three.
It may not be entirely comfortable for the home side, but they have enough quality going forward to make it two wins out of two.
Chelsea 2-1 Aston Villa
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match will kick-off at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBCSN, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.