Chelsea vs. Aston Villa: Team News & Preview

Ian Walton

Resurgent, youthful, and traditionally annoying, Aston Villa's young guns come looking for another shocking scalp at Stamford Bridge.

Twelve months and two managers ago, Aston Villa came to London. It was quite the spectacle: Paulo Ferreira - fresh off a production of the Phantom of the Opera - started a match, Didier Drogba - when not looking to put Stephen Warnock into submission - scored his 150th Chelsea goal, and Andre Villas-Boas - when not busy levitating a colorful soccer ball - led Chelsea to one of its worst results of the season.

In fact, it was one of the worst results of any Chelsea season and certainly one of the biggest shocks of the 2011-12 Premier League, a 3-1 thrashing of Chelsea on its home ground. Not quite the holiday cheer that Chelsea fans were looking for.

Then again, we should be used to the winter blues by now and not just because of this year's struggles. Not since Jose Mourinho's festive 2004 and 2005 has the team resembled anything truly non-humbugy around this time. Bah. Where's the ghost of Christmas Past when you need him?

But perhaps now the Mayan Apocalypse has come and gone, Chelsea can get back to consistent winning ways in the Premier League. Out of the ashes and the rubble, the great blue phoenix shall rise. Or something.

Chelsea: Winners of four of the last five, albeit against middling competition, signs of hope abound. Having abandoned their quest for clean sheets, Chelsea are once again scoring in bunches - the five at Leeds making it 17 in the aforementioned last five. Even Fernando Torres is chipping in regularly, if not always crucially, with a healthy amount.

John Terry has been back to light training but is not yet ready to go. The manager remains hopeful that the Captain will see some action soon but they're not rushing it. Quite interestingly, Mr. Interim has also indicated that the David Luiz midfield sideshow may also return once Terry is back in the lineup.

As far as the midfield for tomorrow, it's quite simply just a question of who's available. With Oriol Romeu done for the season and John Obi Mikel suspended, it pretty much has to be Frank Lampard with Ramires. Especially seeing as how the Oscar - Lampard combination played a grand sum of zero defense midweek.

Ryan Bertrand is also carrying a minor knock, and he will join Aston Villa's Ron Vlaar and Gabriel Agbonlahor as having to pass late fitness tests. Speaking of the opposition...

Aston Villa: Benteke, Christian Benteke. 'Nuff said.

Undefeated in their last six matches - a full month without a loss in any competition - Villa will be full of confidence. In fact, they've won their last two away matches (Liverpool and Norwich City) by a combined score of 7-2. So this will probably not be as easy is it should be - when is it ever? - but Chelsea should still be picking up these three points; three points that are very much needed to stay ahead in the race for third.

Date/Time: Sunday, Dec.23, 16:00 GMT; 11:00 A.M. EST; 9:30 P.M. IST

Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6

TV Information: Sky Sports 1 (UK); FOX Soccer (USA); ESPN (India)

Online: TalkSport (Radio); Chelsea TV (Radio)

NB: I've just been reliably informed that my horoscope for today reads "Your team is inspirational this weekend." Although it is entirely unclear just what they might inspire me to...

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