Chelsea will restart their Premier League campaign with a trip to face Aston Villa. The hosts have already played once, which could give them a slight advantage as they have experience of the new conditions. That said, their fitness will be pushed to the maximum with two matches in a matter of days. It remains to be seen whether their earlier match with Sheffield United helps them or not on Sunday. These teams have very differing aims, but they will both be looking for three points on Sunday.
Despite their point on Wednesday, Aston Villa remain in the relegation zone with nine matches to secure their Premier League status. Only three points separate five teams, therefore a big chance remains for Dean Smith’s team to stay in the top-flight. The manager will be pleased with their performance upon their return, as they were arguably the better team for the majority of the match against Sheffield United. However, they were fortunate as a goal-line technology mishap prevented them from conceding a goal, as stand-in goalkeeper Orjan Norland carried a free-kick over the line. That aside, there was a lot of positivity in their play and the performance will give them some confidence heading into the weekend.
Following a busy few weeks, Chelsea restart their season with increased importance placed on Champions League qualification. The Blues are shaping up to be a dangerous outfit in the 2020/21 season, with Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech both moving to Stamford Bridge, with further reinforcements expected. It is clear that Frank Lampard has the full backing of the board, which suggests stability for the first time in years. To maintain this, the rest of the season is important for the rookie coach, as he needs to keep the club’s position in the top four. Although a fifth-placed finish may be enough, he won’t want to gamble on the outcome of Manchester City’s CAS appeal.
Conor Hourihane created seven chances during the 0-0 draw with Sheffield United. This is the joint-most that an Aston Villa player has managed in a single game, following Jack Grealish achieving this feat against Southampton in December.
Chelsea have had 21 goals scored by English players in the 2019/20 Premier League season. This is the third highest in the Premier League.
Despite more stories coming out about his actions off the pitch, Jack Grealish remains Aston Villa’s talisman and he will be vital for their survival chances. It was a quiet re-introduction to the Premier League on Wednesday, as he didn’t stand out. However, he should have more space to operate in against a Chelsea team that looks to press higher up the pitch. It is matches against the big teams that the midfielder will want to perform in, as he will have one eye on a summer transfer, especially if Villa are relegated from the top flight. His current contribution of seven goals and six assists underlines his quality in the final third. The 24-year-old will be hoping to reach ten in each statistic, but this will be a tough ask with only nine matches to play. He currently averages 2 shots, 2.7 key passes and 2.2 dribbles per game. This emphasises the threat that he carries on a consistent basis. As in every Villa match, he is the main threat for the opposition team to worry about.
The coming weeks will be crucial for Tammy Abraham. He will be looking to establish himself in the Chelsea team before the arrival of Timo Werner. The RB Leipzig forward will be arriving in the summer, but he is able to play off the left or as part of a front two. In fact, those that have watched the German regularly will agree that he performs best in one of these two roles rather than as a lone striker. Therefore, it suggests that there will still be a prominent role for Abraham, but he will want to make sure of that fact over the rest of the season. The way to do that is to score goals and help the team qualify for next season’s Champions League. This season, he has contributed 13 goals and three assists in the Premier League, but he has scored only once in 2020. A major reason for that is the injuries he has suffered. Blues’ fans will be hoping that he comes back with a point to prove and he has been able to get back to full fitness after the break.
Although Nyland wasn’t punished for his mistake, it could still cost him a place in the team. Pepe Reina is a candidate to come into the team. Bjorn Engels and Frederic Guilbert are both out for the home side.
Reece James and Andreas Christensen are both doubts for the visitors. Jorginho is suspended, while Callum Hudson-Odoi is expected to miss out.
Aston Villa will hope that their experience against Sheffield United helps them here. However, it is difficult to see any other result than a Chelsea win. Their players should be motivated following the break, with Champions League qualification in their sights. They should have enough to take three points here.
Aston Villa 1-3 Chelsea