The Blues suffered a major blow last week when Reece James limped off Champions League win over AC Milan with the 22-year-old sidelined for eight weeks with a knee problem.
That rules him out Chelsea‘s hectic run of games over the next month – also serving as a major blow to his World Cup hopes – forcing Graham Potter to consider other options at right-back.
Sterling was deployed on the right of Chelsea’s five-man backline on Sunday at Villa Park and while the visitors took the lead through Mason Mount, they struggled in the first half.
Potter rethought the game plan before the break, switching Ruben-Loftud Cheek to right wing-back with Sterling moved to his regular role in the front three.
Cesar Azpilicueta came on at half-time to offer a more orthodox option in the role.
Discussing the decision to use Sterling in the role, Potter explained in his post-match press conference: ‘It can happen sometimes when you lose a key player you have to try and get a feel.
We tried to be back three in build-up and back four defensively with Raheem [Sterling as a wing-back].
– I thought we started the game quite well in the first 15 minutes, but then we lost a bit of momentum and they were able to apply pressure, collect second balls and get behind us.
– We had to make a change at half-time, I felt, and the boys did well. We have opportunities there.’
Potter added: ‘Raheem can play high and wide in all those positions, but obviously the balance of the squad is one that we have to look at and find the right solutions.’
Chelsea’s win over Villa, their fifth in all competitions, keeps them in the top four, three points ahead of fifth-placed Manchester United, who they face on Saturday.
The Blues make the short trip to Brentford for midweek Premier League action on Wednesday.
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