Graham Potter previews Aston Villa
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Chelsea head coach Graham Potter faces being left without three key players for the trip to Villa Park to face struggling Aston Villa on Sunday. The Blues boss will be forced to change his winning team after being rocked by injuries to key personnel within his squad just as the new boss began to find some momentum after four straight wins.
The Blues will be brimming with confidence after showing signs of improvement under Potter, moving up into the top four with their previous victory and topping their Champions League group. Things could not be more different for underachieving Villa, with Steven Gerrard’s side languishing in 16th after just two wins from nine matches.
But it could prove to be a tough test as Reece James could be out for longer than initially expected after suffering a knee injury in their 2-0 win over AC Milan. The right-back may have to undergo surgery which would rule him out for several months, ruling him out of the World Cup next month and certainly making him unavailable for this game.
Joining him in the physio room is N’Golo Kante, who has experienced a setback in training with a hamstring injury. The 31-year-old, who has featured in only two games this season, is expected to be out until the New Year after Potter revealed he had picked up a new injury on his return to training.
And there are doubts circling over Mason Mount’s fitness after the midfielder was assessed over a thigh problem. The midfielder, who has assisted three goals in his last two games, faces a race against time to make the squad for Sunday’s match.
That will give Potter the chance to hand minutes to fringe players who have only featured for limited periods during his short tenure. Christian Pulisic will be pushing for a start along with Kai Havertz if Mount does not recover in time to be named in the starting XI after scoring against Wolves last time out.
Potter could stick with a three-man backline that saw his side beat AC Milan beat 5-0 across their two Champions League group stage matches, with Thiago Silva partnered by Trevoh Chalobah and Kalidou Koulibaly.
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Captain Cesar Azpilicueta will be the prime candidate to replace the injured James in a wing-back role, while on the opposite flank Marc Cucurella could return to the starting XI in place of Ben Chilwell.
In midfield, Ruben Loftus-Cheek is pushing for a start alongside Jorginho after some impressive performances of late.
Potter is spoilt for choice in terms of his attacking options, with in-form striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang set to lead the line in a central role and a choice between Pulisic, Havertz, Raheem Sterling and Hakim Ziyech for the remaining two wide positions in attack.
Chelsea’s potential XI vs Aston Villa (3-4-3): Arrizabalaga; Chalobah, Silva, Koulibaly; Azpilicueta, Loftus-Cheek, Jorginho, Cucurella; Havertz, Aubameyang, Sterling.
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