Manchester United's on-loan midfielder Tom Cleverley has risked angering Red Devils supporters after paying a glowing tribute to Chelsea, claiming the Premier League rivals are one of the best teams in Europe.
The 25-year-old heaped praise on Jose Mourinho's side after facing them at Stamford Bridge over the weekend, but was unable to prevent Aston Villa finishing on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline.
Cleverley left Old Trafford to link up with Paul Lambert's squad on transfer deadline day, and is now enjoying an extended run of matches that wouldn't have been possible at Manchester United.
Tom Cleverley quote:
"We're disappointed with the result but there are positives to take," insisted the fringe England international, in an interview with Villa's official website. "You come to Stamford Bridge and expect a difficult afternoon.
"They are a very good side at home. They will be one of the top sides in Europe this year. So we knew what to expect."
Cleverley has been one of Aston Villa's standout performers in what has been a bright start to the 2014/15 campaign, although team spirit has been hampered slightly by back-to-back defeats against Arsenal and then Chelsea.
However, despite the recent downturn in form the Manchester United outcast is adamant that the signs are still positive for the Midlands club to have a positive season in England's top-flight.
Confidence still high
"I think our performance improved from last weekend against Arsenal, which is a positive," he added. "I thought we were calm in possession, which is another positive.
"You don't want to concede early like we did but after that we knuckled down and kept them in front of us, kept the ball well when we had it and created one or two of our own opportunities.
"The goals came at the wrong times for us. But there were positives so let's not let our heads drop too much from this and prepare for next weekend."
Things don't get any easier for Cleverley and co. though, as Aston Villa welcome reigning champions Manchester City to Villa Park next Saturday, where they'll be looking to bounce back from consecutive losses against Premier League title contenders.
Can they bounce back?
Lambert's men remain well positioned in sixth place in the table, with ten points from their opening six games, and will be looking to continue defying the odds having been tipped as relegation contenders in pre-season.
Cleverley will also be looking to earn himself a permanent deal with Aston Villa as his Manchester United contract expires at the end of the season, meaning he'll be free to leave on a free transfer next summer.
Louis van Gaal has made clear that the £70,000-a-week star is now surplus to requirements at Old Trafford, following the arrival of a number of high-profile signings which has significantly strengthened the Dutchman's options in midfield.
The likes of Daley Blind, Ander Herrera and Angel di Maria have provided the Red Devils with fresh impetus as they look to improve what has been another disappointing start to the season, with Saturday's 2-1 victory over West Ham representing Van Gaal's second win in all competitions.
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