Romelu Lukaku is set to make his second Stamford Bridge debut as a Chelsea player when the Blues resume their Premier League campaign at home to Aston Villa on Saturday.
Thomas Tuchel’s side remains unbeaten and will have high hopes of extending its unblemished start against a Villa squad that could be missing as many as nine first-team stars.
How to Watch
Date: Saturday, Sept. 11
Time: 12:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Stamford Bridge, London
TV: NBC (WDIVDT- Detroit, MI)
You can live stream the match on fuboTV: Start with a 7-day free trial!
Lukaku already reopened his Chelsea account after bagging the opener in a 2-0 win at Chelsea in his second debut for the club, but Saturday’s clash will cement his homecoming in west London.
There are some concerns over a thigh complaint and whether it will impede Chelsea’s frontman from featuring, having scored three goals in two outings for Belgium during this international break:
While Tuchel has fewer squad concerns at hand, one could argue his are more damaging. Reece James is suspended after he was sent off for a deliberate handball on the line when Chelsea drew 1-1 at Liverpool a fortnight ago, while N’Golo Kanté and Christian Pulisic are sidelined.
Centre-back Thiago Silva also looks likely to miss out after being suspended by the Brazilian Football Association for ignoring his international call-up, though the Blues hope to win their appeal.
Argentina’s Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia did heed the call for World Cup qualifying, however, and were involved in the chaos that saw their game against Brazil postponed.
Seven minutes into their Superclásico clash, Brazilian health officials stormed the field raising umbrage with the paperwork submitted by four Argentinian players based in the Premier League:
Sky Sports reported Martinez and Buendia — along with Tottenham duo Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero — will return to England via Croatia in order to ease their quarantine.
While that may allow the players to train rather than isolate in a hotel for their quarantine period, it does mean they’ll miss the trip to west London as a result.
Ollie Watkins should be fit enough to make his first start of the season in a likely striker partnership alongside Danny Ings, while Leon Bailey, Bertrand Traoré and Ezri Konsa hope to be fit.
Morgan Sanson, Jacob Ramsey, Keinan Davis and Trezeguet are doubts, potentially leaving Smith’s visitors under-equipped in regards to their attacking cover.
The Claret and Blues went unbeaten against Chelsea last season and beat the Blues 2-1 on the final day of the campaign, but their last victory at Stamford Bridge came back in December 2011.
Ending that decade-long drought has never looked so realistic for a Villa side dripping with potential, but squad injuries and absences could leave Smith too light to properly threaten.