Sun 23 Dec 2012 16:00 (Attendance: 41,363)
'T was the last game before Christmas, and club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton have been stirring to supply a comprehensive build-up to Sunday's game…
On Sunday we re-enter the Premier League campaign after a three-match absence in cup competitions. Few teams below took of advantage our absence. We were 10 points shy of the leaders following the West Ham defeat and virtually any win will restore our third-place slot.
Chelsea now enter a phase of six league matches that could have a decisive effect on our season. They offer the possibility of improving our tally by 13 points on results against the same opposition last season.
Of these six, one was won (QPR at home) and two drawn (Norwich and Stoke away) in 2011/12. The remainder were defeats, including Aston Villa - winners at the Bridge for the first time since 2002.
The festive programme can be a defining period and twice under Jose Mourinho - in 2004 and 2005 - the Blues achieved four league wins from four at this time of year.
Only two of the next nine games, from Sunderland on 8 December through to Southampton in the FA Cup 3rd round on 5 January, are to be staged at Stamford Bridge. Given the scheduling of this weekend's matches Chelsea may find themselves in seventh place with two games in hand before this game kicks off.
This is Villa's third successive away game and they have scored seven in the previous two.
Three days after this game, on a train-less Boxing Day, Chelsea travel to Norwich City for a three o'clock start, Villa entertain Spurs at 17.30, then Liverpool visit Stoke for a 19.45 match. West Ham's trip to Arsenal the same day has been postponed as a result of strike action over Bank Holiday pay.
Wednesday night's impressive 5-1 Capital One Cup win was the first time Chelsea have scored more than three at Elland Road, and retained our 100% cup success rate versus Leeds. The bad-tempered 1951/52 FA Cup second replay ended in the same scoreline but it was played at neutral Villa Park.
At the Bridge we have previously beaten the Whites 7-1 (1935), 6-0 (1933) and 5-0 (1984).
The Blues have now hit 16 goals in three Capital One Cup matches this season.
Before May Villa fans were fond of querying 'Have you won a European Cup?' at Stamford Bridge, having won the trophy themselves in 1982. They will have to chant that at other London clubs from now on.
Barclays Premier League fixtures
Wigan v Arsenal 12.45pm - Sky Sports
Manchester City v Reading 3pm
Newcastle v QPR 3pm
Southampton v Sunderland 3pm
Tottenham v Stoke 3pm
West Brom v Norwich 3pm
West Ham v Everton 3pm
Liverpool v Fulham 5.30pm - ESPN
Swansea v Manchester United 1.30pm - Sky Sports
Chelsea v Aston Villa 4pm - Sky Sports
|Barclays Premier League table|
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Chelsea are seeking revenge for Villa's win here last season. Former Blue Clive Walker suggests how that might come about.
'We all heard the talk of jet lag, long-haul travelling coming back from Japan, and sometimes this can be brought up as an excuse - mainly by the media. If it's talked about too much in the vicinity of the training ground, dressing room and the like then players might start to believe it.
'I think they proved that this was not an excuse against Leeds, especially in the second half when people might have expected them to tire or have their heads down. Once the adrenalin kicked in with the equaliser early in the second half, tiredness was a thing of the past. They knew it mattered to the supporters to beat Leeds, and they showed they cared too.
'You always need your big players to step up when you need them. Juan Mata certainly did that on Wednesday; he was on the ball more, found lots of space and pulled the strings. Then the others started to fill in and it seemed like a question of patience and time - that's a lesson that will serve the team well over the entire season, and in games such as this one against Aston Villa.
'Footballers see this part of the season as a time to be disciplined. The modern player knows things can go quickly wrong during the festive period, not only with the team but also individually. They are also aware that if they're in a good position in the league they want to be in a similar place when the league takes a breather and the FA Cup third round comes along.
'Frank Lampard may have played himself in to a start against Villa. He was at his best against Leeds and he has put the injury behind him. The timing of his return could not have been better for the sake of the team. With him and Ramires, back from suspension, it gives a solid base in holding positions.
'Also available is Gary Cahill, who started his career at Villa but has scored quite a few goals against his old side since. He may also start but Rafa Benítez will look at the boys in training and make the decision about who plays at the back.
'Christian Benteke and Andreas Weimann (pictured below) are becoming a decent pair upfront for Villa. The power of Benteke and the pace of Weimann are almost the perfect double act. They are young and lack experience, but shear enthusiasm will mean we will have to keep our concentration for the full 90 minutes - we saw again at Elland Road what happens when we don't.
'Paul Lambert is beginning to impose his style on Villa but it is a slow process because of the balance of his team and the precarious position they have found themselves in the league.
'His team ethics change according to the opposition and whether it's home or away - he can sometimes go out to negate the hosts away from home. It seems clear he has an idea as to how he eventually wants his team to play, but they are not ready for that style week in and week out.
'In Eden Hazard, Oscar, Victor Moses, Mata - who should all be confident after that test of nerve at Leeds - we have the creative players to break down a defensive side. You would also hope that, increasingly, we have the experience and nous to overcome the barriers teams place in front of us.
'The biggest weakness Villa have is the lack of experience of the team and of the manager at the highest level. Of course, they are gaining experience all the time and if he can keep them together in a couple of years they may have something. But all teams that lack good solid, experienced players will have blips along the way.
'Rafa will probably have in mind a certain number of target points over this busy period. We may look at certain matches and think we will take all the points but we cannot take that as a given.
'He seems to be doing the right thing, taking each game as it comes and picking and rotating the players accordingly. We have a great squad and he will want the freshest players on the pitch at all times.
'The 11 must always have a good balance. It is a tough job for the manager to get this right through this festive period unscathed. Let's hope he does.'
For Villa, midfielder Stephen Ireland returns from illness but defender Ron Vlaar (calf) and striker Gabriel Agbonlahor (thigh) are doubts.
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WE HAVE HISTORY
Aston Villa remain potential adversaries in the Capital One Cup. The last time the two sides met outside the requisite league fixtures was in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley that the Londoners won 3-0.
A fortnight earlier Martin O'Neill's side visited the Bridge in the league. The Midlanders enjoyed a false dawn when John Carew equalised Frank Lampard's early goal, but our midfielder hit the net three more time (two from the spot) as Carlo Ancelotti's men tore through the visitors.
Lampard became the club's third-highest goalscorer that day. Florent Malouda (two) and Salomon Kalou completed a remarkable 7-1 scoreline. John Terry wore the captain's armband for a record 325th time on the occasion of his 450th appearance.
Villa's surprise victory at Stamford Bridge last season was their first here since May 2002. It ended Chelsea's unbeaten home run against the Villans of seven wins and three draws.
The Blues have scored 21 goals against Aston Villa on their last six visits to Stamford Bridge in all competitions.
Our last 10 league meetings at Stamford Bridge
2001/02 - Villa won 3-1
2002/03 - Chelsea won 2-0
2003/04 - Chelsea won 1-0
2004/05 - Chelsea won 1-0
2005/06 - Chelsea won 2-1
2006/07 - Drew 1-1
2007/08 - Drew 4-4
2008/09 - Chelsea won 2-0
2009/10 - Chelsea won 7-1
2010/11 - Drew 3-3
2011/12 - Aston Villa won 3-1
Other match last season
31 March 2012 Barclays Premier League
Aston Villa……..….2 Chelsea………..……4
Collins 76 Sturridge 8
Lichaj 79 Ivanovic 50, 82
Chelsea v Aston Villa in all competitions
Games played 144
Chelsea wins 54
Villa wins 56
Head to head in the League at Stamford Bridge
Games played 65
Chelsea wins 33
Villa wins 19
Biggest league win at Stamford Bridge for each team
27/03/2010- Chelsea 7-1 Aston Villa
19/09/1931 - Chelsea 3-6 Aston Villa
Chelsea won at home in the Premier League:78
Aston Villa won in London: 358
Arsenal won a trophy: 2,773
Liverpool won the league: 8,268
Visit again tomorrow for part two of the Briefing.
Chelsea have used 20 players in the Barclays Premier League this term, fewer than any other club.
Chelsea have won seven points from the last 24 available, one win in the last eight.
West Ham was the only occasion this season, out of 10, we have opened the scoring in the Premier League and went on to lose the game.
Only Stoke, with eight, have kept more clean sheets than Chelsea's six.
|Last six results|