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Chelsea v Villa


Chelsea are seeking revenge for Villa's win here last season. Former Blue Clive Walker suggests how that might come about.

Key battles
'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.

Kakuta and Weimann

'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.'

Squad fitness news
John Terry and Oriol Romeu (knees) are out and Ryan Bertrand (groin) will have a late fitness test.

For Villa, midfielder Stephen Ireland returns from illness but defender Ron Vlaar (calf) and striker Gabriel Agbonlahor (thigh) are doubts.

Click on tabs above for more briefing.


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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
Dec 1 West Ham (a) L 1-3
Dec 5 FC Nordsjaelland (Champions League h) W 6-1
Dec 8 Sunderland (a) W 3-1
Dec 13 Monterrey (Club World Cup SF, Japan) W 3-1
Dec 16 Corinthians (Club World Cup final, Japan) L 0-1
Dec 19 Leeds (League Cup QF a) W 5-1

Premier League scorers
Mata 6, Torres 6, E Hazard 3 (1 pen), Ivanovic 3, Lampard 3 (2 pens), Cahill 2, Cole 1, Moses 1, Ramires 1, Sturridge 1, Terry 1. Total 28

League games since
A home win: 4
A home draw: 0
A home defeat: 3

Chelsea's next three games
Wed 26 Dec Norwich City away 3pm
Sun 30 Dec Everton away 1.30pm
Wed 2 Jan Queens Park Rangers home 7.45pm


Frank Lampard is now equal with Bobby Tambling as our top league scorer in top-flight matches, with 129 goals.

If selected, Sunday will be Lampard's 500th Premier League start (367 for Chelsea, 132 for West Ham).

If selected and fit, Daniel Sturridge will make his 50th start for Chelsea.


Major trophies
7 League championships, last in 1981
1 European Cup in 1982
1 UEFA Super Cup in 1982
7 FA Cups, last in 1957
5 League Cups, last in 1996
1 shared Charity Shield in 1981

Aston Villa's best season in the Premier League was runners-up in 1992/93 with 74 points, 10 behind champions Man Utd and two above third-placed Norwich.

Villa's starting XI against Liverpool last weekend was the youngest in the Premier League this season. They averaged 23 years 309 days old.

They are unbeaten in five Premier League games, conceding only two goals. Their last defeat was at the Etihad against Manchester City on 17 November.

No team has scored fewer than Aston Villa's 15 Premier League goals in 17 games.

Paul Lambert's side have gained only one point from losing positions this term.

Villa have won eight points from a possible 27 on the road this term - two wins at Sunderland in November and Liverpool last weekend, draws at Newcastle and QPR and defeats at West Ham, Southampton, Tottenham, Fulham and Manchester City.

It is 55 matches since Aston Villa won consecutive Premier League games.

Manager Paul Lambert
Days in charge: 204
Played 21
Won 8
Drawn 6
Lost 7

Villa's last 10 year Premier League history
Pts Pos
2002/03 45 16th
2003/04 56 6th
2004/05 47 10th
2005/06 42 16th
2006/07 50 11th
2007/08 60 6th
2008/09 62 6th
2009/10 64 6th
2010/11 48 9th
2011/12 38 16th



Last six results
Nov 24 Arsenal (h) D 0-0
Nov 27 Reading (h) W 1-0
Dec 1 QPR (a) D 1-1
Dec 8 Stoke (h) D 0-0
Dec 11 Norwich (League Cup a) W 4-1
Dec 15 Liverpool (a) W 3-1

2012/13 Premier League scorers
Benteke 5, Weimann 3, Bent 2, Agbonlahor 1, Clark 1, El Ahmadi 1, Holman 1, Lowton 1. Total 15.

League games since
An away win: 0
An away draw: 1
An away defeat: 2

Christian Benteke (Genk, £7m), Matthew Lowton (Sheffield United, £3m), Ron Vlaar (Feyenoord, £3m), Joe Bennett (Middlesbrough, £2.5m), Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord, £2m), Brett Holman (AZ Alkmaar, free), Jordan Bowery (Chesterfield, £500,000), Ashley Westwood (Crewe, £2m)
Outs James Collins (West Ham, £2.5m), Carlos Cuéllar (Sunderland, free), Emile Heskey (released), Jean Makoun (Rennes, loan), Nathan Delfouneso (Blackpool, loan), Stephen Warnock (Bolton, loan), Alan Hutton (Nottingham Forest, loan), Habib Beye (released).

Phil Dowd is the official for his second Chelsea game this season, the other being our 2-0 win against Newcastle at Stamford Bridge in August

John Mikel Obi is suspended (third of three)

From 1 January onwards, a player will need to accrue 10 yellow cards before he is handed a suspension (five yellows will lead to a warning as to his future conduct rather than a ban). Whereas the suspension for five yellows before 31 December is one game in length, suspension for 10 yellows is two matches, although that only applies until the second Sunday in April.

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