The final game of 2020 is upon us with the Blues hoping to ring out the old year with a home win. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton have a quick turnaround of match previews for a quick turnaround of games…
Just 48 hours after the defeat at Arsenal kicked off, Chelsea entertain Aston Villa, who benefited from the Blues’ setback and rose up the table. Other clubs will have longer between Christmas matches, but such was the nature of the loss that maybe the next game cannot come soon enough.
If there was one welcome aspect of the derby it was that the pandemic prevented 3,000 Blues fans having to trek away into the blustery north London night. Another positive is that the Villans’ visit is the first of the 12 remaining league matches at Stamford Bridge (11 are away), and the Blues are the second-strongest in the top flight at home. Our one win in four league games since the excellent but strenuous defeat of Leeds was in SW6.
Moreover, Chelsea have won 10 of the past 11 league games against Villa, including each of the past five at the Bridge on an aggregate 17-2 – a sixth in succession tonight would set a new high. The Villans have not managed an away clean sheet against the Londoners in the top flight in 19 visits.
Chelsea have won each of the past six league games home and away to Aston Villa, our best ever sequence against them.
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Chelsea team news
Frank Lampard will hope his players respond to stinging criticism at their lack of ‘the basics’ – hard work and full commitment – at Arsenal. Will he give many of the same individuals a chance to make amends, or draft in others he feels will show the requisite energy and diligence? He has said there will be changes.
Twenty-seven players have seen action in the Premier League this season for Chelsea (the most), while Villa have used the fewest: 19. Only Timo Werner and N’Golo Kante have appeared in all 15 games. Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Kurt Zouma have missed just the one. After tonight there are five days to recover and prepare for the visit of Manchester City on 3 January.
The head coach has already etched Callum Hudson-Odoi’s name into the line-up after a dynamic second-half showing at Emirates, but the ultra-creative Hakim Ziyech is not fit yet. Olivier Giroud could see action against a defence lacking lynchpin Tyrone Mings, who is suspended.
Replacements such as Hudson-Odoi added impetus, but the lacklustre Blues still only carved out sufficient goalscoring opportunities to potentially salvage a share of the points very late in the game. While racking up 61 per cent possession against the Gunners, Abraham’s smartly chested goal in the 85th minute was the visitors’ first shot on target.
Of the seven times an opponent has taken the lead this season, Chelsea have equalised on just three occasions. Conversely, the Blues have gone ahead 11 times and conceded four levelling goals.
Unfortunately, Jorginho’s penalty brought his third miss from 12 yards this campaign, and other late chances also went begging. That closing flurry has also been a feature of the Blues’ games at the Bridge, where seven goals have been scored in the last quarter-hour, and only one conceded.
Second city stirring
Arsenal inflicted Chelsea’s heaviest defeat of the season despite having less than 40 per cent possession over the 90-plus minutes. It is something Aston Villa’s coach, Dean Smith, seems keen to emulate. ‘We’ll see less with the ball,’ he predicted of today’s encounter, ‘but we’ve got to make sure when we win it back we use it very well.’
Villa rose above the Blues on goal difference thanks to Saka’s fortunate third for Arsenal, but it was the effectiveness of the Gunners’ counter-attacks that will have caught his eye.
The west Londoners cannot afford to defend poorly against the Villans’ dynamic attack. Although centre-forward Ollie Watkins’ meteoric rise through the English league has stalled on goals – he is without one in six games now – the best defences find his stealth and power problematic.
Behind the ex-Brentford and Exeter striker, the form of Anwar El Ghazi, Jack Grealish and former Blue Bertrand Traore has dovetailed conveniently. El Ghazi’s link-play, Grealish’s ghosting and dribbling and Traore’s cultured creativity have taken it in turns to work when it counts.
At the other end of the field Emi Martinez has proved a shrewd buy, and only Manchester City have conceded fewer league goals. Even down to 10 men against Palace at the weekend their rearguard held out.
Smith is a pragmatist in that respect, not wedded to playing the ball from the back and happy to string a clothes line of six defenders across the box if necessary. The place alongside Kortney Hause vacated by Tyrone Mings’ suspension is likely to be taken by Ezri Konta this evening.
Although Smith has selected the youngest average age of players in the top flight so far this season, six of them have started every league game, and five of those including central midfielder John McGinn have played every minute. He may feel a rest is due for some of them today.
How to watch Chelsea vs Villa
All Premier League matches in this round will be covered live in the UK by subscription channel Amazon Prime
To find the relevant broadcaster where you are elsewhere, see the Premier League’s broadcast schedule pages
Our Blues-centred match coverage on the 5th Stand app, Facebook Live and official YouTube channel begins 70 minutes before kick-off with assessment of the teamsheets and exclusive interviews.
Fortress Stamford Bridge
Aston Villa have the fourth-best record on the road this season, but the 3-0 victory against West Ham last time out bolstered Chelsea’s position of having the second-best record on home soil in the top flight behind Liverpool in terms of points, goals scored and goal difference.
The Premier League maybe skewed without home crowds this season but this is how the Blues’ 14 points from seven matches at the Bridge – two points per game – sits in context of our recent history.
|2016/17*||19 games||51 points||2.7 points per game|
Grealish takes on Hazard
Villa’s Jack Grealish has taken up the unwanted mantle, left by Eden Hazard’s switch from Chelsea to Real, of being the most fouled player in the top flight since the start of 2019/20. Referees have whistled almost five times per game on average this season in the 25-year-old’s favour, well ahead of Palace’s Zaha, Mane of Liverpool and Zaha’s teammate Eze.
Chelsea’s currently most fouled player is left-back Ben Chilwell but for many years that unwanted mantle was worn by Hazard. In his final season in England, 2018/19, the Belgian was the fouled 104 times.
Morecambe wise up
Being drawn to play at Stamford Bridge in round three of the FA Cup in a couple of weeks’ time seems to have put a spring in the step of Morecambe’s players. Since the League Two side were paired with Chelsea on 30 November they have won five and lost one of their past six games, not having won for four games prior to the announcement. Versatile forward Carlos Mendes-Gomes had found the net twice all season going into December, but has scored five times in as many games since.
The latest matchday programme
While restrictions are in place at Stamford Bridge the place to obtain the official match day programme is here, online, for £3.50 plus postage.
Premier League fixtures
Crystal Palace v Leicester 3pm
Chelsea v Aston Villa 5.30pm
Everton v Man City 8pm
Brighton v Arsenal 6pm
Burnley v Sheffield Utd 6pm
Southampton v West Ham 6pm
West Brom v Leeds 6pm
Man Utd v Wolves 8pm
Tottenham v Fulham 6pm
Newcastle v Liverpool 8pm
|10||West Ham United||15||6||4||5||23||21||2||22|