Weekend of reckoning for Swansea and Aston Villa
CHELSEA v SWANSEA
(Tonight, 10pm, SingTel mio TV Ch 102, StarHub TV Ch 227)
LIVERPOOL v ASTON VILLA
(Tomorrow, 12.30am, SingTel mio TV Ch 102, StarHub TV Ch 227)
Early Premiership standings don't always accurately reflect strengths and weaknesses, and yet Swansea's and Aston Villa's performances have not gone unnoticed either.
They may be unfashionable in the eyes of many, but they are also unbeaten after three games, and currently occupy two of the top three spots in the table.
However, with tough fixtures looming, the bubble may be about to burst.
Second-placed Swansea travel to Stamford Bridge to face Premiership leaders Chelsea today in a clash of the only teams with 100 per cent league records.
Then Aston Villa, in third spot, visit Anfield where Liverpool are brimming with confidence after a 3-0 away hammering of Tottenham Hotspur.
It is in London though, where Swansea face arguably the more unpleasant test.
The Blues have started the season with a bang.
Wins over Burnley and Leicester City, by two-goal margins, were attributed to inferior opposition, but the stunning 6-3 victory over Everton at Goodison Park signalled their title intentions loud and clear.
The huge difference in financial muscle between powerhouses like Chelsea and sides like Swansea means that the latter will do well just to stay within touching distance of the leading pack at the halfway point of the campaign.
The disparity can be seen in their transfer activities over the summer.
Swansea manager Garry Monk saw several top players depart for greener pastures, including Michu, Chico Flores and Michel Vorm, and it remains to be seen if a host of modest signings, such as Gylfi Sigurdsson and Federico Fernandez, can fill the void.
At Chelsea, Jose Mourinho has brought in a glittering cast - Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas, Filipe Luis and Loic Remy.
What Monk can hope for is a lucky break.
Costa has taken to the Premiership like fish to water, his four goals in three matches winning him August's Premier League Player of the Month award. However, a minor injury picked up during international duty may rule him out of today's meeting.
The Swans keep their fingers crossed.
Aston Villa, on the other hand, will be relieved they don't have to face the threat of Liverpool talisman Daniel Sturridge, who has been struck off the team sheet because of a thigh strain.
The Claret and Blue, though, must once again make their chances count.
Manager Paul Lambert, who like the Liverpool gaffer, preaches passing, attacking football, has also turned his side into the epitome of efficiency.
No other Premiership outfit have more points (seven) than shots on target (five).
Lambert will also be comforted by his record against the Reds.
He has never tasted defeat at Anfield in his managerial career, picking up five points in three outings.
Last season, Villa took a 2-0 lead against Brendan Rodgers' side, but had to settle for a 2-2 draw eventually in a game where they were by no means outplayed.
Many admire the pluck of teams like Villa.
But most will also agree that they face huge odds against such overwhelming favourites, just as in Swansea's case.
They will fight tooth and nail, fly into tackles and rough up the opponents every chance they get.
In the end, for the likes of Villa and Swansea, it's all about extending the fairy tale and enjoying it while it lasts.
Because that run looks likely to end this weekend.
"Diego came back injured, but that was last Saturday. He had one week to work hard with the medical department. He has a chance to play."
- Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho on Diego Costa
- Aug 16
Beat Stoke 1-0 (A)
- Aug 23
Drew with Newcastle 0-0 (H)
- Aug 30
Beat Hull 2-1 (H)
- Aug 16
Beat Man U 2-1 (A)
- Aug 23
Beat Burnley 1-0 (H)
- Aug 30
Beat WBA 3-0 (H)
Mourinho to make late decision on Costa
Jose Mourinho will make a late decision on whether striker Diego Costa will be fit to feature for Chelsea in tonight's clash against Swansea.
Costa, the £32 million ($67m) signing from Atletico Madrid, has scored four times in his first three games for Chelsea.
Not surprisingly, the 25-year-old was named the Premier League Player of the Month for August, but he had to withdraw from the Spain squad during the international break with a hamstring problem.
"Diego came back injured, but that was last Saturday," Mourinho said.
"He had one week to work hard with the medical department. He has a chance to play tomorrow.
"We have a training session to confirm his condition and to make the final decision."
Mourinho had little doubt Costa would adapt swiftly to the EPL.
"When we bought him, we were very optimistic," the Portuguese added.
"His profile as a player, his profile also as a person. A player (who) is also part of a team and we knew that the team was going in a certain direction and was waiting for a person like him to be there.
"His start was good. Three matches, three victories and four goals."
Loic Remy, who signed from QPR for a reported fee of £10.5m after Fernando Torres left for AC Milan on a two-year loan, is in contention to make his debut against the Swans, who, like Chelsea, have begun the season with three wins from three games. - PA Sport.