Chelsea wary of Villa threat
London, England (Sports Network) - Chelsea's start to the season has been marked by inconsistency, but the Blues will try to claim a second successive Premier League victory on Sunday when they welcome Aston Villa to Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea made the strongest start of any Premier League team, but some poor form and a premature exit from the Champions League cost manager Roberto Di Matteo his job.
In came Rafa Benitez, but after a couple of promising results, the squad does not appear to be any better off. The Blues were have fallen to third in England's top flight and lost to Brazilian side Corinthians in the FIFA Club World Cup last week.
In Premier League play, Chelsea is coming off of a 3-1 win over Sunderland before the start of the Club World Cup, but things won't get any easier against a Villa side that has strung together a five-game unbeaten streak.
"They are doing well and it seems they are comfortable with the system, three at the back with wing backs, and they have good options in counter-attack because [Christian] Benteke is a good reference point," said Benitez. "But our priority is our team and what we try to do. Obviously we analyze the other team too, but we want them to have to adapt to us more than us to them.
"This is a crucial time. It is important because there are a lot of points available."
With a condensed fixture list around the holiday period, Aston Villa will be looking to continue its fine form and pull further away from the relegation zone. The club enters the weekend with 18 points, three points clear of the drop zone.
Also on Sunday, Manchester United heads to the Liberty Stadium to take on Swansea City. United, occupying first-place with 42 points, will know exactly what result it needs to maintain or extend its lead over second-place Manchester City.
The Citizens welcome Reading to the Etihad on Saturday, and should the reigning Premier League champions drop points, the Red Devils will look to capitalize and build upon their six-point lead the following day.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Arsenal will try to make it three straight Premier League wins when it heads to the DW Stadium to face Wigan, which is winless in its last four contests. The Latics enter the weekend action in the final relegation spot while the Gunners cling to fifth place on goal differential.
Also on Saturday, Newcastle hosts QPR at the Sports Direct Arena, Southampton welcomes Sunderland to St. Mary's, Stoke City heads to White Hart Lane to face Tottenham, Norwich City and West Bromwich square off at the Hawthorns, Everton heads to Upton Park to take on West Ham and Liverpool looks to bounce back from defeat when it does battle with Fulham at Anfield.