Chelsea haven't lost a Premier League match in over three months, and sit comfortably atop the Premier League table with under two months remaining in the season. Despite winning their last match against Norwich City in fairly comfortable fashion, Aston Villa have been in relatively poor form in 2014, having won only twice since their victory over Sunderland on New Year's Day. They haven't beaten a top half opponent in over three months, and very few will likely pick them to get anything out of a match against Chelsea on Saturday because of that.
How Paul Lambert decides to approach this match could certainly make things interesting, as Chelsea have generally struggled against sides closing up shop and looking willing to play for a point. Normally, this wouldn't be a tactic I'd expect to see Villa employ, but sitting six points clear of the relegation zone with a relatively favorable GD could see the manager opt for a more conservative approach as opposed to risking another 8-0 thumping.
Villa don't typically play a possession based game, instead looking to hit the opposition on the counter after taking back possession. Chelsea fans should all be well aware of the threat posed by Christian Benteke in this regard, as his combination of size and athleticism makes him a handful to defend. While Villa do create some good opportunities from their direct style of attack, they don't create many, and don't have the sort of creative talent necessary to break down a defense like Chelsea's if we can keep them from hitting us on the break.
Chelsea have a big Champions League match on Tuesday, but can't afford to look past Villa in order to focus on that game. With both Liverpool and Arsenal having tricky fixtures against their biggest rivals on Sunday, Chelsea may not get many better opportunities than this to put those opponents' title hopes to bed.
Opponent: Aston Villa, currently 12th on 31 points
Date/time: Saturday, March 15, 2014 at 17:30 GMT (1:30 p.m. EDT, 10:30 a.m PDT, 23:00 IST)
Venue: Villa Park, Birmingham, England
View from the enemy: 7500 to Holte
Weather: Warm, partly sunny, and no rain. Yay!
Chelsea squad news: David Luiz, Ashley Cole, and Marco van Ginkel are all out. Fernando Torres was expected to miss, but it turns out that the injury might not have been as serious as originally thought and that the Spaniard may be available in some capacity. Hooray?
Aston Villa squad news: Ryan Bertrand has been playing well for Lambert's men, but he won't be available against his parent club. The club also have three players expected to miss with injury, including Libor Kozak, Charles N'Zogbia, and Jores Okore.
Television and streaming: Sky Sports 1 HD (UK), NBCSN, NBC Sports Live Extra (US), Star Sports 4, Star Sports 2 HD (India), Chelsea TV (Audio only for subscribers), this link (everyone else)