Chelsea vs. Aston Villa
Venue: Stamford Bridge
Kick off: 5:30PM
Two mid-table sides with an identical Premier League points tally after 27 matches lock horns at Stamford Bridge this evening, as Chelsea play host to Aston Villa.
The Blues occupy 10th spot following a 2-2 draw with Everton before the international break, while the Lions are one place worse off thanks to a 3-0 success over Bournemouth.
Just when the pressure on Graham Potter’s shoulders was slowly being lifted, the under-fire Englishman once again felt the full force of fans’ frustrations, as Everton twice came from behind to travel back to Merseyside with a point in the bag.
Following a goalless and largely forgettable opening 45 minutes, Joao Felix and Kai Havertz put Chelsea ahead on two separate occasions, but Everton struck back both times through Abdoulaye Doucoure and Ellis Simms, who bagged his first Toffees goal on the 89-minute mark.
That four-goal stalemate quickly snapped a three-game winning run for the Blues, who are perennial occupants of 10th place in the standings, but Liverpool – who boast a game in hand – are only four points better off in sixth place.
While hopes of Champions League qualification are surely too far-fetched for Potter’s crop, the consolation prize of Europa League football is a distinct possibility for the Blues, who are now at least unbeaten in four games and have scored at least twice in each of their last three contests.
Inconsistency on their own patch continues to bedevil Chelsea too, as only three of their last nine Premier League home matches has ended in victory, and only 26 top-flight goals have been scored at Stamford Bridge this term – the fewest out of all 20 grounds.
Prior to their trip to Villa Park, Bournemouth had fought valiantly against Manchester City, were agonisingly close to denying league leaders Arsenal and comfortably kept Liverpool at bay in a 1-0 win over the Reds, but Unai Emery’s side enjoyed plenty of bites at the Cherries.
Taking just seven minutes to draw first blood through Douglas Luiz, patience was soon the name of the game for Villa, but the Lions struck twice more in the final 10 minutes through Jacob Ramsey and Emiliano Buendia to put Bournemouth to the sword with aplomb.
With 10 points to show from their last four Premier League matches, the international break arguably came at the worst time for the 11th-placed Lions, who only sit behind Chelsea on goal difference and could break into the top half should results go their way this weekend.
Since the ex-Arsenal boss returned to the Premier League landscape, Villa have scored in all of their 16 competitive matches under Emery, and the last time they went five top-flight games unbeaten, the fifth game in that pattern was a 1-1 draw away to Chelsea.
However, the Blues ran out 2-0 winners at Villa Park back in October – largely thanks to some inspired goalkeeping by Kepa Arrizabalaga – and only one of the Lions’ last 17 trips to Stamford Bridge has ended in victory.
Chelsea possible XI: Kepa, Badiashile, Koulibaly, Cucurella, James, Fernandez, Kovacic, Chilwell, Mudryk, Havertz, Felix.
Aston Villa possible XI: Martinez, Young, Konsa, Mings, Moreno, McGinn, Luiz, Bailey, Buendia, Ramsey, Watkins.