Aston Villa Preview Boxing Day sees David O’Leary’s Aston Villa side visit Stamford Bridge for a One O’Clock kick-off. The sides drew earlier in the year when they met at Villa Park, though at that stage Chelsea were stuttering and Villa were flying. Things are a little different this time around.
No wins in four have seen Villa slide to ninth in the table following their promising start to the season. Last weekend saw them thumped 3-0 by Middlesbrough, whilst six days previous to that they were beaten at home by arch rivals Birmingham.
Manager O’Leary finds himself at a crossroads in the season, and a result at Chelsea is a must. Chelsea, meanwhile, could barely be happier with their current status. Sat at the top of the table they have a five-point gap over Arsenal and have put four goals past Norwich, Newcastle and Fulham to name but a few in recent games.
Jose Mourinho does have his first mini injury crisis of the season however. Scott Parker broke a metatarsal against Norwich and will be out until February at least. Ricardo Carvalho remains a doubt with a broken toe, whilst Robert Huth will be absent through his ankle injury. Mourinho has hinted at a January shopping trip to bolster his squad, though for the moment he will have to rotate his way through the festive season.
O’Leary’s squad is not in prime condition either however, and it is less well equipped to deal with the scenario. Villa come to the Bridge with only fourteen outfield players available. Gavin McCann, J Lloyd Samuel, Tomas Hitzlsperger and Darius Vassell are all carrying injuries and will not play, whilst forward Carlton Cole sits out this weekend as a loanee from Chelsea.
When the sides last met, there was little in it, though Chelsea were robbed when Didier Drogba was booked for ‘diving’ in the area. The referee later apologised to Mourinho and rescinded the card, though the 0-0 result was beyond alteration. Chelsea will want to make amends on Sunday however and form suggests that this is the likelihood. If Frank Lampard can overcome the industrious Gareth Barry and bring Arjen Robben and Damian Duff into the game, then Villa will have a job stopping the Blues’ current charge into the new year.