Chelsea perspective: Andy Seaby, ChelseaDaft.
Much of the focus will be on whether or not John Terry will return to first team action this weekend against Villa. Terry didn't fly to Japan for the World Club Cup, staying back at Cobham to work on his fitness. He travelled to Leeds in midweek but played no part in the game. Apart from Oriol Romeu (injured) and Mikel (suspended), everyone is fit and available for selection.
Chelsea head into this game fresh from the impressive second half performance against Leeds. Chelsea had ten shots on target in the second period alone and scored five goals. Our last outing in the Premier League was against Sunderland, when Torres scored twice and Chelsea won 3-1. After a disappointing trip to Japan, Chelsea need to get their title challenge back on track and cannot afford to lose further ground on Man United.
Our last meeting with Villa in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge saw Villa pick up a surprise 3-1 win. Chelsea had won just two games of the previous five games at the Bridge before that.
Chelsea to win without conceding at 2.20. Chelsea have been free scoring lately under Benitez, and I think we'll keep it tight against Villa.
Juan Mata to score first at 5.5. The little magician has been outstanding this season and was impressive in midweek. Having scored against Sunderland, Monterrey and Leeds, I wouldn't put it past him to get the first goal in this one.
Fernando Torres to score a header at 7.0. Torres is improving under Benitez and with the wide players we have at the club now, a header from the striker is always a possibility.
Score prediction: Chelsea 3-0 Aston Villa (8.50)
Aston Villa perspective: David Grimble, Up The Villa.
I was initially worried when Ron Vlaar went down with injury, but the young guns at the back have done extremely well, and he might face a hard time getting back into the side. A change in formation to 3-5-2 has resulted in an upturn in fortunes, and Paul Lambert is beginning to really show what he’s capable of. Vlaar looks likely to miss out again, and the game might come too soon for Agbonlahor, who has been suffering with a thigh strain.
Things have been going very well in the league for Villa, and we also have a league cup semi-final place booked, thanks to a 4-1 thrashing of Norwich. We held QPR to a draw at Loftus Road in Harry Redknapp’s first home game, and drew 0-0 against Stoke. It was the last game that really got people’s attention though, as we went to Anfield and won 3-1, with Christian Benteke stealing the headlines.
We’ve had some epic battles against Chelsea over the years, a side we tend to do alright against (the 7-1 defeat a few years ago notwithstanding). Last season saw away wins for both teams, with our 3-1 victory at Stamford Bridge on New Year’s Eve probably the highlight of what was a horrible season. Chelsea won the return game 4-2, but I imagine plenty of Villans will be feeling quietly confident going into Sunday’s game.
Aston Villa to win at 9.00. Why not? It’s a cracking price, we’re bang in form, we have a good record against the side and Lambert will have the player’s right up for this one.
Draw/Villa HT/FT at 18.00. We have one of the best first half records in the Premier League, and we rarely concede during the first 45 minutes. Chelsea might tire as the game goes on due to their recent exertions.
Christian Benteke to score first at 10.00. The man is on fire at the moment, and that display against Liverpool last week really made the football world sit up and take notice. He’ll fancy himself against the Chelsea centre-backs, and he’s forming a blossoming partnership with Andreas Weimann.
Score prediction: Chelsea 1-2 Aston Villa (22.00).