There is no World Cup football on Sunday, so we can entertain ourselves with some midseason pre-season action as Chelsea take on Aston Villa in a friendly in Abu Dhabi.
This game is technically part of the inaugural CBF Al Wahda Challenge Cup — Al Wahda are the local side who are hosting this event — but in practice is nothing more than a preparatory game for either side as we start to look forward to the return of the Premier League in a couple weeks.
As with preseason pre-season games, the focus will be on fitness above all else, especially with half the team still missing due to the World Cup (or injuries).
Date / Time: Sunday, December 11, 2022, 14.10 GMT; 9:10am EST; 7:40pm IST
Venue: Al-Nahyan Stadium, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Forecast: Sunny and warm
Aston Villa team news: Villa had just three players called up to the World Cup, Jan Bednarek and Matty Cash with Poland and Emi Martínez with Argentina, so they’ve had a slightly fuller winter break programme and have brought a larger squad to their warm-weather training camp in Dubai. This will be their third friendly already, after games against Cardiff City and Brighton & Hove Albion, and they have a fourth one scheduled against Villarreal next week as well.
Villa do have a few youngsters with them — including Lamare Bogarde, the nephew of one-time Chelsea paycheck-collector Winston Bogarde — but we can probably expect a fairly familiar lineup. Summer signing Diego Carlos remains sidelined as he steps up recovery from Achilles surgery but Philippe Coutinho could be ready to return from his lengthy hamstring issue.
Prior to the break, Villa had won three of four in the league under new manager Unai Emery to rise up to 12th place, three points behind Chelsea, albeit having played one game more.
View from the enemy: 7500 to Holte
Chelsea team news: This will be our first appearance in front of cameras since limping into the break on the back of three straight defeats (in the league and in all competitions), scoring a grand total of zero goals in the process. This game won’t solve those problems, but we do have some fresh faces to check out at least, with the likes of Cesare Casadei and Omari Hutchinson among the 25-man traveling squad.
Chelsea’s walking wounded also remain mostly wounded and barely walking, though at least Kepa Arrizabalaga, Reece James and Wesley Fofana appear on track to be ready to return by Boxing Day.
Previously: We played Villa in mid-October, with Mason Mount taking advantage of two absolute gifts from the Villa defense to lead us to a 2-0 win.