Fresh from their Boxing Day outings, Chelsea welcome Aston Villa to the Premier League on Monday night as the list of festive games is in full swing.
Christmas is often heralded as the time to finally look at the league table, but the superficial looks of those of a Chelsea persuasion won’t make a pretty read. Not only did their future opponents overtake them with a weekend victory, Aston Villa actually played two games less.
Just 48 hours from the pain of losing to an Arsenal side as desperately lacking in confidence as Mikel Arteta’s side, Chelsea face one of the fittest sides in the division.
The Blues can boast some of the elite’s most expensive attacking assets, but Villa has not conceded a goal in more than six and a half hours of Premier League football.
When does the kick-off take place? Monday 28 December
What time is the kick-off? 5:30 p.m. (GMT)
Where is it played? stamford bridge
TV channel / live broadcast? Amazon Prime Video
Arbitrator? Stuart attwell
Despite the relentless build-up of matches, Chelsea’s only injury doubt is Hakim Ziyech, although the former Ajax player could make a return to the squad on Monday.
Aston Villa will be without Tyrone Mings suspended – posing a threat to their parsimonious streak – after the center-back took a literal approach to the Boxing Day game against Crystal Palace and was sacked in the first half.
Ross Barkley is still recovering from a thigh problem but could not face his parent club anyway. Long-absent Wesley is unlikely to return before the New Year, while Trezeguet is also in doubt.
Chelsea: Mendy; James, Zouma, Silva, Chilwell; Kovacic, Kante, Mount; Havertz, Giroud, Pulisic
Aston Villa: Martinez; Cash, Hause, Konsa, Targett; McGinn, Luiz; Traoré, Grealish, El Ghazi; Watkins
After losing to Liverpool on the second weekend of the season, Chelsea embarked on a streak of 17 unbeaten games (in 90 minutes) in all competitions. However, Everton ended that streak abruptly earlier in December and Frank Lampard’s side have lost three of their last four games, including that 1-0 loss at Goodison Park.
Aston Villa seems to have emerged on the other side of its own slump in recent weeks – Dean Smith’s outfit rebounded from four losses in five games to take ten points from his final outing quartet. In fact, Villa’s 3-0 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday kept them their fourth consecutive top-flight clean sheet for the first time since December 2009.
Here’s how each team has performed in their last five outings.
Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea (26/12)
Chelsea 3-0 West Ham United (21/12)
Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1 Chelsea (15/12)
Everton 1-0 Chelsea (12/12)
Chelsea 1-1 Krasnodar (8/12)
Aston Villa 3-0 Crystal Palace (12/26)
West Bromwich Albion 0-3 Aston Villa (20/12)
Aston Villa 0-0 Burnley (17/12)
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-1 Aston Villa (12/12)
West Ham United 2-1 Aston Villa (30/11)
Lampard blames Chelsea’s shocking defeat to Arsenal at his players’ doorstep after the game, but if the Blues stay out of the top six – where they reside before Monday’s game – at the end of the campaign, that will be the boss who must “take responsibility”.
Despite their status as relegation dropouts last season, a hugely impressive transfer window – at a fraction of the cost of Chelsea – secured Villa status in the upper echelons of the division.
Still, while Mings’ loss from Villa’s back line is a blow not to be underestimated, the continued otherworldly form of Jack Grealish at the sharp end of the pitch makes Smith’s squad a severe test for any team.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-2 Aston Villa