Following on from their 6-1 thumping victory over Middlesbrough in midweek, Chelsea played host to Aston Villa in the fourth round of the FA Cup. With the Blues having already secured a date at Wembley this season, would they be able to navigate a tricky tie against high-flying Premier League opposition?
Unai Emery’s side would be feeling confident that they could come out on top in this clash, likely having one eye on a deep run in the competition themselves.
CHE: Petrovic; Badiashile, Silva, Disasi, Gilchrist; Caicedo, Fernandez; Sterling, Gallagher, Madueke; Palmer
AVL: Martinez; Moreno, Lenglet, Konsa, Cash; McGinn, Kamara, Luiz, Diaby; Tielemans; Watkins
Having only played on this very pitch three days before, you would be forgiven for thinking that the home side may have looked a little lethargic in the opening exchanges against a refreshed Villa side that had not played a competitive match in over 12 days.
But it would in fact be Chelsea seeing a lot of the ball in the early stages, with Aston Villa happy to concede the possession and play on the counter where possible. Emery’s side were persisting with a high line in order to create quicker transitions when the ball is turned over, but this tactical set-up was certainly risky as it left them susceptible to balls in behind, which the pace on Chelsea’s wings in the form of Noni Madueke and Raheem Sterling would be looking to exploit.
For all of Chelsea’s early possesion, the first real opportunity on goal would fall to the visitors in the 12th minute of the match. A corner routine that was poorly defended by the Blues would see the ball in the back of Petrovic’s net, after a tap in by Douglas Luiz, but the Brazillan’s celebrations were rather muted after supposedly giving his side the lead.
However after a length VAR review, it was clear to see why Luiz had not reacted, as it was rightly chalked off for a handball in the build-up from the midfielder. Although the goal did not stand, it did give the home side a reminder that for all their positivity on the ball, if they couldn’t find a way past Emi Martinez it would count for very little as the game was still very much in the balance.Embed from Getty Images
As the half wore on, Chelsea would continue dominating the attacks after their lucky escape earlier, but unlike the match on Tuesday evening their would be no end product. The closest they came was through Noni Madueke in the 31st minute, who had a ball played into his path by Cole Palmer with the goal at his mercy, but Martinez was on hand to turn the Englishman’s effort past the post and away for a corner.
The trend would continue for most the second half with the home-side controlling the tempo of the match but unable to create any meaningful opportunities to score on a regular basis. Unai Emery’s side grew into the match as the Chelsea players tired, with most of the starting eleven having played only 72 hours earlier, but they also couldn’t find the cutting edge.
Both managers made changes in the latter stages in hopes of finding a breakthrough and avoiding a replay at Villa Park. Extra fixtures at this stage in the season can make or break a clubs success as any opportunity to have extra time to recover between matches is extremely benefical when the games are coming thick and fast.
However, neither side really looked like scoring and the referee blew full time with both sides still in the hat for the fifth round draw having played out a 0-0 draw on the night. For Chelsea, they now look ahead to a game away at Liverpool; in what can be expected to be an emotional affair, given the news earlier today of Jurgen Klopp’s departure at the end of the season. Aston Villa also face a difficult next match, playing host to Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United next Tuesday.