Chelsea will be looking to get back to winning ways on Wednesday, following a run of three matches without a victory. They welcome Aston Villa to Stamford Bridge, who will be hopeful of gaining a positive result. The festive period can throw up unpredictable results, with West Ham’s victory over the home side on Saturday proving that. Although the Blues had several good chances in the first half, they were unable to find a breakthrough and they were later punished for that. It seems to be a common theme that Frank Lampard’s men are struggling more in home fixtures and it is a trend that can’t continue.
The Blues are well placed to go on to secure a top four finish, which brings Champions League qualification. They are currently six points ahead of Tottenham in 5th, despite their back-to-back defeats. Lampard will realise that their early form has provided them with breathing space, but they can’t let their performance levels drop, as their lead can be quickly cut. This is a young group of players and this season will provide plenty of learning opportunities. A result like Saturday can happen, as they continue to develop as a team. The response is key and it is crucial that they secure a result on Wednesday.
Aston Villa have been playing some very nice football in recent weeks, with four points taken from their last two matches. They delivered a fighting display against Manchester United, coming from behind to secure a point. This was particularly pleasing as it was only the second time in seven matches that they avoided defeat on the road. Their away form has been a problem for Dean Smith, but there are reasons to believe that they can improve over the festive period. They will approach the game at Stamford Bridge with nothing to lose and they will pose problems for the home side. The open style of Chelsea could suit the visitors.
Chelsea have won only three of seven Premier League matches at Stamford Bridge scoring nine goals. This needs to improve if they are to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Aston Villa have conceded nine goals from set pieces in the Premier League. This is more than any other team in the division.
The summer arrival has slowly integrated into the first team and he looks like a very good addition to help replace Eden Hazard. It would have been unfair to expect any one individual to step up in the Belgian’s absence, but Pulisic has added goals to the attack. The former Borussia Dortmund winger looks to be positive in possession and gets shots in on goal at every opportunity. At the time of writing, he has contributed five goals and two assists in the Premier League. This is a goal involvement every 106.6 minutes, an excellent return for a player adapting to the league. It is easy to forget that the attacker is only 21-years-old, as he is a new signing at the club. He isn’t viewed in the same light as some of the youngsters in the team, but he is in the same stage of development. Aston Villa have struggled away from home, conceding more than two goals per game. There will be chances for the home side to score on Wednesday and the USA international is the one most likely to take those opportunities.
The consistency being shown by Jack Grealish over the first few months of the season has been very impressive. The years in the Championship have clearly helped him develop into the player that many expected him to be. There will be several Premier League clubs now regretting their decision not to sign the midfielder when they had the chance, as it will take a very big fee to convince Villa to sell their star player now. The 24-year-old has contributed three goals and four assists in the Premier League, which is an excellent contribution for a midfielder. It is clear that he and John McGinn are the key players in Dean Smith’s team, with both providing goal threat from midfield. Gareth Southgate will be keeping a close eye on his performances, especially in the big matches, as there may be an opportunity to gatecrash the European Championship squad. Grealish certainly has the talent, but he is now adding the consistency to his game.
Tammy Abraham may be back available for the home side following a knock picked up in the Champions League. Olivier Giroud failed to impress during his rare start on Saturday. Antonio Rudiger and Ross Barkley are both closing in on returns.
Anwar El Ghazi should be passed fit to feature for the visitors. Frederic Guilbert is suspended, which is a major blow to their chances as the full-back has been very impressive this season.
This is a huge test for Frank Lampard at this early stage of his time in charge. Chelsea can’t afford to drop more points at this stage of the season, with Tottenham beginning to build momentum. Their home performances have been poor, but this game should provide the perfect opportunity to bounce back, as Aston Villa do concede goals away from home. The fitness of Tammy Abraham could be key against his former loan club, as it is obvious that the Blues are more effective with him in the starting eleven.
Chelsea 2-1 Aston Villa