FULL TIME: Chelsea win!
90+6min: Villa eventually take the free kick after Grealish and Rüdiger exchange feelings. Trezeguet goes for goal. Kepa catches easily.
90+4min: Chelsea looking to run down the clock, but James loses the ball on the right and Villa try to counter. Kanté takes one for the team by shoving Grealish.
90+2min: Alonso makes a great interception and gets trod on for his troubles. Looks okay to continue.
90min: Reece on for Willian as 5 minutes are added on for some reason.
89min: Azpi heads clear ahead of Trezeguet as Villa press for a late equalizer. Abraham heads the subsequent corner clear before Willian wins a free kick to settle things down.
87min: Jota on for McGinn, and almost equalizes with his first touch after Christensen misses the ball on an easy interception.
85min: Willian takes aim from 20, but hits it over the bar. Goalkeeper got a hand to it apparently as we have a corner. First corner is defended well. Willian takes the second as well, finding Pulisic at the top of the box. It takes an unfortunate hard bounce just before it gets to him and he can only hit his shot into a defender. The third corner in quick succession is headed clear. But Chelsea come again, and this time Willian lays it off for Alonso to hit. His powerful drive is blocked by a leg. Chelsea come again, this time Willian’s shot is blocked.
83min: Tammy gets his head to a corner, but misses the target.
80min: Abraham on for Giroud.
77min: Chelsea build on the left with Alonso and Barkley, but the latter’s cross can only find a Villa foot. Willian’s follow-up corner is easily caught by the goalkeeper.
75min: Chelsea build center to left, but Giroud’s layoff is a bit too soft for Willian and Villa can clear. Chelsea maintain possession.
72min: Giroud wins a couple free kicks in midfield as the tension starts to ratchet up again.
70min: Villa make a couple changes, Nakamba and Trezeguet on.
68min: Great ball in from the free kick by Villa, but Hause’s header fortunately flies just over the bar. Water break after that reprieve.
67min: Villa still here of course and now they’re looking for the equalizer. Azpi blocks one cross but Grealish is then hacked down by Willian. Fortunately it’s just outside the corner of the penalty area rather than inside it.
62min: GOALLLL!!!! GIROUDDDDD!! Chelsea build on the left with Barkley and Mount ... and Azpi? ... who puts it in for Giroud at the penalty spot. He takes a touch, turns, and finds paydirt. 2-1, CHELSEA!!!
61min: GOALLLL!!! PULISICCCC! Azpi with another cross, and it’s another good one. It’s over the head of two runners, but Pulisic’s there at the far post to put it home. Easy as you like. 1-1!!!
60min: Pulisic on the ball for the first time after a switch from Kanté, but his pass back in is behind the runner and Villa clear.
59min: Willian runs the right channel, but just as he’s about to pass, gets a kick on his ankle. No call and the goalkeeper collects.
58min: Azpi’s latest cross is just out of the reach of a sliding Giroud at the near post.
57min: Villa switch attackers, Samatta for Davis.
55min: First changes for Chelsea, as Barkley’s on for Kovaćić and Pulisic’s on for RLC.
54min: Chelsea break the high press as Kovačić turns upfield, but the move slows down in the final third again. Kanté’s cross eventually finds Giroud, but he can only head over the bar.
53min: Willian’s turn on the right, puts in a good cross finding Azpilicueta at the near post, but he can’t quite guide his header on target from there.
52min: Azpi 1-2 with Willian almost comes off, but Targett gets lucky with a sliding tackle from behind and even wins a goal kick for his team.
51min: Good interplay on the right for Chelsea again, but Villa having great success in blocking a succession of crosses.
50min: Rüdiger’s error gifts Villa a chance to attack with decent numbers, but Chelsea recover well to prevent any further danger.
49min: Chelsea continue to probe, and win another corner this time through Mount. Willian takes, keeping it low towards the penalty spot, but it’s straight to a Villa player instead.
47min: An early corner for Chelsea after Azpi’s cross is blocked. Willian puts in a good ball, but no one’s alert enough to turn it goalwards and Villa can hack clear.
46min: NO changes at half-time, which is a bit surprising, and Chelsea get us back underway.
HALF-TIME: Villa lead 1-0. Chelsea need a bit of cutting edge, and maybe not give away cheap goals on set pieces.
45+2min: Chelsea corner as Azpi’s cross is blocked. Willian takes, just over the head of Giroud at the near post. The clearance goes only as far as Alonso, and he tries to volley it towards goal. Blocked for a corner from the other side. Willian takes this one, too, and it’s again only cleared as far as the top of the area. Kovačić knocks it down there and hits it sweetly, but it flies inches wide of the post. So close!
45+1min: Chelsea looking for a quick response, but Kanté and RLC not on the same page as we try to pass through the middle. Meanwhile, a massive rainstorm just started.
43min: GOAL. Villa. Grealish wins another foul, 35 yards out central. Villa simply play wide, then cross it in and Chelsea’s defense falls asleep. Kepa makes a tremendous save on the first chance, but Hause puts the rebound into the net. 1-0, Villa.
41min: Willian’s turn to operate on the right. Cuts inside onto his left, but his shot is well wide of the top corner that he was aiming for.
40min: A rare break through the middle is led by Kovačić, who plays wide to Alonso. He cuts back on his right, but his shot is blocked by a trailing heel. Wasted opportunity.
39min: More great play on the right, this time from Mount, fizzing a low cross after beating his man, just out of the reach of a sliding RLC at the far post.
38min: Another good play on the right, but Mount strays just offside as Willian plays in low.
37min: Mount, Willian combine to create a crossing opportunity for Azpi, but he can’t quite find Alonso at the far post. Then 1-2 with Mount and Azpi gives the latter a great opportunity in the area, but his touch lets him down and Villa can clear.
35min: Hause puts a knee into the back of Giroud, but somehow that’s not a foul.
34min: Willian goes for an early cross as a turnover in midfield creates some space to run, but Nyland grabs it ahead of the onrushing Giroud. At the other end, El Ghazi finds McGinn with a great cross, but his header against Rüdiger is fortunately poor and well wide of the far post.
32min: Kovačić hits a slow dribbler at goal, which Nyland almost misplays into an own goal. He grabs it at the second attempt. At the other end, El Ghazi hammers one towards the corner from 25 yards. Kepa makes the solid save.
30min: Willian fizzes one across low, but Giroud can’t quite get a toe to it to tap it in. Alonso follows up with a cross from the left, which is cleared, then it’s Mount’s turn on the right to hammer one at Nyland. Goalkeeper punches clear.
29min: Kanté turns upfield and breaks a line, spreading wide to Azpi. His cross is cut out just before it could get to Mount. Chelsea resume possession, Villa reset the wall.
27min: Chelsea with space in the center-left, but RLC’s ball wide to Alonso is too strong and he’s forced into a cross, which he mis-hits anyway. Plenty of rust in everyone’s game.
26min: Alonso restarts with a throw and Chelsea resume possession. The ball’s eventually worked back left and Alonso aims a cross towards Giroud, which is just over his head.
24min: Chelsea pass it around in midfield, but Villa shifting around well and staying compact. No way through at the moment. Drink break!
21min: Chelsea trying to play through the middle with some intricate passing, but Villa are congesting the edge of the area and there’s no way through.
20min: Mount with a rasping left-footed snap shot out of practically nothing almost surprises Nyland. But the Villa goalkeeper sticks a hand out to block. Great shot, greater reflexes.
19min: Alonso plays it forward to RLC on the left, but his cross is low, weak, and easily cut out.
18min: Chelsea stay patient and pass through the high press, but then Rüdiger misjudges his pass wide to Alonso and Villa have a throw at midfield. Chelsea win the ball quickly, but the match has lost some pace and quality in the last few minutes.
15min: Long ball from Villa is headed clear for a corner by Christensen. Up come the Villa big men for the corner, which Grealish takes. He goes short, but Chelsea react well to the set play, and spring a counter. But Villa get back quickly and Giroud’s final ball isn’t good enough to beat them.
14min: Chelsea switch left, then switch right to make good progress up the pitch. Willian lays it on for Azpi to cross, but he gets it all wrong and Villa have a goal kick.
12min: Mount whistled for a foul a bit harshly in the center circle, as Villa get on the ball for a little bit. Kovačić wins the ball back via a foul after dropping deep on the right and defending well against El Ghazi.
9min: Kovačić aims a ball towards Alonso on the left, but his header back across the penalty area is hacked clear. Chelsea with all the possession here, until an errant ball from Kovačić gets Villa a throw. Willian left-footed shot after cutting in from the right was blocked just prior to that.
8min: Chelsea push on the left, Alonso to Mount, but RLC can’t get past his man who clears for a corner. Willian takes, Villa head clear. Chelsea resume possession at midfield.
7min: Another cheap foul by Chelsea gives Villa another free kick. This one’s curled in towards the far post, but Kepa’s out to claim it well.
6min: Christensen finds Giroud with a nice pass, his layoff gets Chelsea going forward. But the move breaks down as Giroud’s spinning chipped ball over the top is not read by Azpilicueta, who had bounded forward.
4min: Willian comes again, this time wide right, but Villa clear for a throw. Chelsea maintain possession. Willian combines with Azpi wide right again, for the latter to cross. RLC makes the second run behind Giroud, but his header is well wide.
3min: Alonso finds Willian in the center, he turns and runs straight towards goal, drawing a few defenders. Willian plays wide to Mount, but his ball back across is cleared.
1min: Villa straight into the attack and force Rüdiger into a foul, 25 yards out right of center. Villa try a set piece variation, wasted as Kepa collects easily.
KICK-OFF: The teams walk out into the empty stadium, while John Terry practices social undistancing as he mingles with the Chelsea coaching staff. A moment’s silence for those who lost their lives or were affected by COVID-19 is observed, then players, coaches, and referees take a knee in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, before Aston Villa get us underway.
One-hundred and five days after beating Everton 4-0, Chelsea are back on the pitch and ready to resume our Premier League campaign. The mission, as before, is to finish in the top four and qualify for next season’s Champions League. Things are looking good so far —including this weekend with many teams around us dropping points — but there are nine matches still remaining and we don’t exactly have the easiest schedule.
This is one of the easiest games left on it, which makes it a must-win.
And the big news is that RLC starts! Whether he’s in midfield (4-3-3) or on the left wing (4-2-3-1), we’ll have to wait for the actual game to start to find out.
Here we go!
Aston Villa starting lineup (4-3-3):
Nyland | Targett, Hause, Minga, Konsa | McGinn, Douglas Luiz, Hourihane | Grealish (c), Davis, El Ghazi
Substitutes from: Reina, Elmohamady, Taylor, Nakamba, Jota, Trezeguet, Vassilev, Borja, Samatta
Chelsea starting lineup (4-3-3?):
Arrizabalaga | Alonso, Rüdiger, Christensen, Azpilicueta (c) | Kovačić, Kanté, Loftus-Cheek | Mount, Giroud, Willian
Substitutes from: Caballero, James, Emerson, Zouma, Gilmour, Barkley, Pedro, Pulisic, Abraham
Date / Time: Sunday, June 21, 2020, 16.15 BST; 11:15am EDT; 8:45pm IST
Venue: Villa Park, Birmingham, England
Referee: Paul Tierney (on pitch); Lee Mason (VAR)
On TV: Sky Sports Main Event (UK); NBCSN, Telemundo (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); SuperSport 3 (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes!