Chelsea vs Aston Villa: 3 things to look out for

Chelsea v Preston North End - Emirates FA Cup Third Round
Chelsea v Preston North End - Emirates FA Cup Third Round / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Chelsea turns their attention to the FA Cup this Friday, where they will welcome Aston Villa for an all-Premier League fourth-round clash. Boosted by their impressive recent form, Chelsea steps onto their home pitch filled with confidence for the forthcoming encounter.

Here are three things to look forward to.

1. Will the recent good form continue?

The Blues are currently on an impressive winning streak, having secured victories in their last six matches at Stamford Bridge. However, Aston Villa presents a formidable challenge, standing out as the strongest team Mauricio Pochettino's side has yet to face during their current winning streak.

While the Villains are currently fourth in the Premier League table, the Blues are in ninth place. Their inconsistent performance means predicting Chelsea's form in any match is challenging. Factors like injuries, player form, and questionable decisions from Pochettino have all played a part in the unpredictability surrounding Chelsea's season.

2. The effect of midweek fixture.

Raheem Sterling saw 85 minutes of playtime on Wednesday, while Cole Palmer was on the field for the entire match. With the Blues leading 4-0 by halftime, Pochettino had the opportunity to substitute them out early for ample rest before Friday's clash with Aston Villa. Despite this, both players should start in the upcoming game. Such oversights could significantly disrupt Chelsea's season, especially given the Argentine coach's heavy reliance on the English duo.

Pochettino expressed dissatisfaction with Mykhailo Mudryk's performance, substituting him for Noni Madueke before the second half began. The manager's handling of the Ukrainian player has been notably strict. Mudryk was performing well in early December, but Pochettino abruptly reduced his playing time until he finally started him on Wednesday. Given the four-goal lead, it would have been an ideal opportunity to give Mudryk the match to regain his form while resting one of the key English players he heavily relies on for Madueke.

3. Fitness of players.

Pochettino's heavy reliance on certain players stems partly from injuries to others and partly from his stubbornness. Currently, Chelsea is dealing with nine players side-lined due to injuries. Facing a congested fixture calendar, the threat of additional injuries increases. Pochettino must tackle this phase with a mix of luck and improved management tactics. Managing player rotations effectively and keeping a close eye on their fitness levels will be vital in overcoming the challenges of this busy schedule.