Well, here we are, at the end of a most strange year of our maker 2020, but the galactic overmind won’t let us increment that, most likely entirely insignificant as far as the state of the world is concerned, number without first contesting a feats of strength at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Aston Villa.
It’s a battle of seventh and eighth, and we’re not the higher ranked side — in fact, Villa have the same amount of points as Chelsea in two fewer matches played (13 vs. 15 for 25 points), and a better goal differential by one as well. Not only have Villa been “better” this season than Chelsea, they’re in much better form as well, unbeaten in four (three wins), without conceding a single goal, and fresh off of a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace.
Despite our poor results of late, we can draw hope from our excellent home record this season: just the one loss to Liverpool back in September, and four wins and two draws in Premier League games since.
With pressure mounting on Lampard, this is about as must-win a match as we’ve had in some time. Considering the truly wretched expected weather conditions, we will indeed need all of our focus and commitment in this one.
Date / Time: Monday, December 28, 2020, 17.30 GMT; 12:30pm EST; 11pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Stuart Attwell (on pitch); Darren England (VAR)
Forecast: Freezing rain, sleet, wind; winter is here
On TV: none (UK); NBCSN, Universo (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); SuperSport Premier League, Canal+ Sport 3 (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: Amazon Prime (UK); NBC Sports Live, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Chelsea team news: With two games in three days, and actually exactly 48 hours apart, there was always going to be some rotation for this game. Given the team’s performance at the Emirates however, and the full squad available except for Hakim Ziyech, rotation won’t only be necessary due to fitness levels.
Callum Hudson-Odoi, a bright spot as a half-time substitute on Saturday, is likely to be the first name on the team sheet, and he could be joined by many others usually on the bench or on the fringes of the team. As much as those who faltered so badly against Arsenal on Saturday will likely want to prove themselves at the next earliest opportunity, Lampard will have to make the tough calls and probably deny that opportunity to quite a few of them.
This could very well be a season-defining game for this team, these players, and this manager.
Aston Villa team news: Now in their second season back in the Premier League, the one-time ever-presents have actually flirted with greatness at times, most notably when they destroyed Liverpool, 7-2. No, that’s not a typo. They have come back down closer to Earth since (and Liverpool have righted their ship as well), but Villa remain very much in the top-four picture, especially after this recent run of good results. Then again, half the table are in the top-four picture at the moment!
That shouldn’t take away from Villa’s quality, though they will be without key center back Tyrone Mings, who was sent off in their last game. Striker Wesley is still out, so is Trezeguet, while Ross Barkley is ineligible as well as also injured. The Chelsea loanee has been out for the past five weeks but is expected to return in the new year.
Ex-Chelsea prospect Bertrand Traoré has scored in each of his last two games, and will surely be looking to make it three in a row on his competitive return to Stamford Bridge.
View from the enemy: 7500 To Holte
Previously: Once a bogey team, Chelsea have won eight (8!) in a row against Villa, since a 1-0 defeat at Villa Park in 2014-15, when both Willian and Ramires saw red. Both games last season finished 2-1 in our favor, including the one at Stamford Bridge, when Mason Mount scored the winner early in the second half.