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Chelsea vs. Aston Villa, FA Cup: Preview, team news, how to watch

Fourth round litmus test

Chelsea Training and Press Conference Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Tuesday’s 6-1 win over Middlesbrough in the second leg of the League Cup semifinal, which ensured our place in the Wembley final next month in impressive fashion, has taken some pressure off the team and the manager. And that’s good, because Aston Villa will pose a much tougher challenge for any intentions we might have of progressing in the FA Cup as well.

In fact, given how easily Villa handled us back in September (1-0) and also back in April (2-0), winning both of those Premier League games at Stamford Bridge without even conceding, today’s encounter will provide a good litmus test for how much progress we may ... or may not ... have made in recent weeks and months. It certainly feels like we’re moving in the right direction, if not necessarily at the right speed, but at the end of the day, results are the only thing by which we will ever be judged.

Mauricio Pochettino said that we’re “desperate” to win trophies, so let’s see that reflected on the pitch as well!

Date / Time: Friday, January 26, 2024, 19.45 GMT; 2:45pm EST; 1:15am IST (next day)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Robert Jones (on pitch); Simon Hooper (VAR)
Forecast: cold once the sun goes down

On TV: none (UK); none (USA); Sony TEN 1 (India); none (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: none (UK); ESPN+ (USA); Sony LIV (India); SuperSport GOtv Select 2 (NGA); Chelsea TV (audio stream only; int’l)

Chelsea team news: Christopher Nkunku and Malo Gusto have returned to training, but this game will come too soon for them. Same goes for Trevoh Chalobah, who’s still building match fitness. They join the rest of the walking wounded on the sidelines, including Reece James, Wesley Fofana, Marc Cucurella, Lesley Ugochukwu, Roméo Lavia, and Robert Sánchez. Cesare Casadei is ineligible, while Nicolas Jackson and Andrey Santos are on international duty. Ben Chilwell made his first start in five months on Tuesday, and is thus unlikely to start again 72 hours later, and that will be as big of a miss as any injury.

On the plus side, we’ve now won seven in a row at home in all competitions, our best run at the Bridge in seven years.

Everton FC v Aston Villa - Premier League Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images

Aston Villa team news: Villa remain in the thick of the top-four fight in the league, even though they’ve picked up just five points in their last four games. But they have just one defeat in thier last fourteen in all competitions, and that includes wins over both Manchester City and Arsenal. They are the best team we have faced since the 4-4 draw against Manchester City in mid-November.

Villa are in pretty good shape in terms of injuries as well, with only Lucas Digne and Jacob Ramsey out alongside long-term absentees Emiliano Buendía and Tyrone Mings. Center back Paul Torres and backup goalkeeper Robin Olsen face late fitness tests while ex-Chelsea prospect Bertrand Traoré is away at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Unlike us, Villa didn’t have a game on Tuesday (they were eliminated from the League Cup way back in September already, and combined with their winter pseudo-break, they come in on the back of almost two weeks of rest. Unai Emery doesn’t want to waste anyone’s time with taking prisoners.

“We want to be motivated and excited with our supporters in the FA Cup because the prestige of it is very important. It’s a trophy; it’s a way to get into Europe; it’s a way to feel something with our supporters in case we are going ahead in this competition.

“I want to be contenders in this competition but the way we’re going to face it (the match) is most important. Tomorrow we’re going to play with the best players we have being focused on this match and this competition. I don’t want to waste one match or our time not being competitive.”

-Unai Emery; source: Aston Villa FC

View from the enemy: 7500 To Holte

Previously: Our last two meetings, both in the league, both at Stamford Bridge, have resulted in zero points and zero goals for us, and six points and three goals for them. Prior to that, we had beaten them in four straight, including a win on penalties in the League Cup third round back in 2021.

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