Chelsea 4 Aston Villa 0
Tonight, however, goals from Frank Lampard, Andriy Shevchenko, Michael Essien and Didier Drogba saw off meek resistance from Martin O'Neill's side.
Chelsea's first strike on goal on 12 minutes saw Villa keeper Thomas Sorensen dive smartly to his left to parry away the ball for a corner from a right-footed drive by Drogba.
A minute later and Drogba almost tapped the ball past Villa keeper after excellent set-up play on the left by Lampard.
Chelsea deservedly broke the deadlock on 32 minutes, when Michael Ballack whipped in a left by-line cross and Lampard, unmarked on the apex of the six-yard box, tucked home the ball with a glancing header which Sorensen could only help into the top left-hand corner of his goal.
Villa started the second half brightly and were unlucky with a Juan Pablo Angel header which squirmed across Carlo Cudicini's goal with no other Villa player able to take advantage.
Shevchenko almost scored on 53 minutes, when a long run left the Ukrainian striker just outside the Villa area on the right.
Without breaking stride, he unleashed a rasping right-footer, which was arrowing for the top corner, but Sorensen athletically tipped the ball away for a corner.
Drogba almost doubled Chelsea's lead on 60 minutes when Geremi sent a deep right-wing cross to the Ivorian, who met the ball with a bicycle kick at the far post. The ball sailed across Sorensen's goal and to safety.
The second goal came on 65 minutes and was a clinical finish by Shevchenko.
Lampard sent over a fine left-wing cross which was met full on the head by Shevchenko, who directed the ball accurately to the left of Sorensen and into the far corner of the net.
It was the £30million man's fourth goal for the Premiership champions since his summer move from AC Milan.
Jose Mourinho made a double substitution on 75 minutes, replacing Shevchenko and Ballack with Salomon Kalou and Joe Cole.
Both had early chances to score but both saw their shots miss the Villa goal by some distance.
Essien got his just rewards for an all-action performance by notching number three on 82 minutes.
A fine break by Geremi saw him set up Essien on the edge of the Villa area. The Ghanaian trotted past a static Villa defence and slotted home with a deft right-footer.
Goal number four came a minute later, when another swift break involving Kalou and Cole saw the ball tumble out to Drogba, who six yards out smashed the ball home off the prone figure of Sorensen.