Venue: Stamford Bridge
Date: Sunday, 2 January
Kick-off: 1330 GMT
Going into today’s early kick-off we find ourselves outside the top 4, so it’s probably just as well we’re at home to a Villa side sitting just outside the relegation zone. Not that we’ll be expecting anything like the 7-1 drubbing we dished out in the same fixture last season, given we haven’t seen anything like that sort of form for a while.
Ahead of this game, Carlo Ancelotti is in no doubt what’s required, stating “We have to beat Aston Villa because we have to confirm the performance in the second half against Bolton. Obviously, we have to improve our place in the table and we are not sure everything is okay now. We have to confirm this with a good performance to start the new year with confidence. Aston Villa are in trouble now and we have to pay a lot of attention because every game for them will be important. They can use maybe the game against us to move on and, for this reason, we have to pay attention because they will use a lot of energy for this game.”
Gerard Houllier won’t be taking it lying down though, if his fighting talk is anything to go by, with the Villa manager stating “It would probably be like winning the final of the World Cup for our team because we need that at the moment. We are the underdog, but we will cope. We have nothing to lose. I know the result they had last year. It is better to go to Chelsea and start the year in the best way. When there is adversity, there is fight, flight or fright. We’ve got to fight. The team needs to know I’ve got faith in them, I trust them. They are good players, and they haven’t changed.”
On the injury front for us, Mikel (knee), Zhirkov (calf), Alex (knee) and Benayoun (Achilles) are all out, Sturridge (knee) is doubtful and Ivanovic misses out through suspension. Jeffrey Bruma could well get the nod ahead of Ferreira as cover.
For Villa, Weimann (ankle) is injured although Heskey and Young could return to the starting line-up.
CHELSEA (from): Cech, Turnbull, Bosingwa, Hilario, Ferreira, Cole, Terry, Essien, Lampard, Ramires, McEachran, Malouda, Kalou, Drogba, Anelka, Bruma, Sturridge, Kakuta, Van Aanholt.
VILLA (from): Friedel, Guzan, Cuellar, Warnock, Collins, Dunne, Lichaj, Albrighton, Reo-Coker, Bannan, Petrov, Hogg, Downing, Albrighton, A. Young, Heskey, Albrighton, Delfouneso, L. Young, Ireland, Carew, Beye.
Chelsea 7-1 Villa (27 March 2010)
You might think the fact that this fixture last season was so one-sided added to Villa’s form so far this season, could give us the edge. Villa have won just 2 of their last 13 against us in the league as well, so we could be forgiven for thinking we could get back-to-back wins for the first time in a while. Before we get too carried away though, we should remember we’ve already dropped as many points at home so far this season (5) as we did in the whole of last season and we haven’t scored more than once in a league game for the past 9 games. So a goal-fest is unlikely to be on the cards.