Chelsea will look to bounce back in the Premier League when they welcome high-flying Aston Villa on Monday evening (5:30pm kick-off, UK time).
Both clubs are locked on 25 points but Villa, on a two-game winning streak, have played two games fewer than Chelsea, whose painful December form has involved three defeats.
Chelsea vs Aston Villa build-up, previous line-ups & injury news:
A nine-match unbeaten streak between September and the start of this month, which yielded five wins, generated optimism at Stamford Bridge following a summer of strong investment. Some observers even tipped Lampard’s men to really go for the title this season.
However, the wheels are seemingly starting to come off. A meek mid-December showing at Everton resulted in a 1-0 defeat, which has since been followed by two more crushing blows, as well as a 3-0 win over West Ham sandwiched in between.
Both of those setbacks against Wolves (2-1) and Arsenal (3-1) came on the road, but it has nonetheless exposed the work Chelsea still need to do if they harbour any title-winning ambitions. That recent defeat at the Emirates leaves them eighth and more than two wins away from catching league-leaders Liverpool.
Things could hardly be much more of a contrast for Aston Villa, who continue to go from strength to strength. Dean Smith’s side are unbeaten in four matches since a 2-1 loss at West Ham in late November, picking up 10 points from an available 12.
This run leaves them level on points with Chelsea and with an opportunity to leapfrog their more affluent opponents heading into the New Year.
- Chelsea (vs Arsenal): Mendy; James, Zouma, Silva, Chilwell; Kante, Kovacic, Mount; Pulisic, Abraham, Werner.
- Aston Villa (vs Crystal Palace): Martinez; Cash, Hause, Mings*, Targett; McGinn, Luiz; Traore, Grealish, El Ghazi; Watkins.
Hakim Ziyech (hamstring) is the only player unavailable for Lampard as he seeks a return to winning ways.
Tyrone Mings misses Villa’s trip after receiving a red card in their comfortable win over Crystal Palace at the weekend. Ross Barkley recently returned to training but is ineligible to face his parent club, while Trezeguet and Wesley are both ruled out.
Players to watch:
Chelsea: Having acquired no fewer than seven players over the summer, five of which cost more than £20m, Lampard has had a few teething issues in the first third of the campaign in trying to work out his best system. But, one player who has largely remained consistent throughout this period of transition is Mason Mount, who has completed the full 90 minutes in each of his last nine Premier League outings.
The 21-year-old’s versatility has seen him become something of a utility player under Lampard this term, having already played left wing, right wing, central midfield and as a No. 10. But, more recently he has been deployed as the advanced playmaker in Lampard’s three-man midfield.
His creativity, having engineered the most chances of any Chelsea player in the league this season, both overall (31) and from open play (15), as well as his style of play, having registered the second-most completed take-ons (17) and third-most fouls won (12) have naturally seen comparisons with a certain Jack Grealish arise.
However, both players have been quick to downplay the debate surrounding their apparent ‘rivalry’ when it comes to who gets the nod from Gareth Southgate in the England fold. “We are two different players and we do different things,” Mount said of the Grealish comparisons.
“We can play in different roles. So the comparisons are not just. I’ve definitely got longer passing in my locker and you can bring that out more when you’re playing in that No 8 position.”
Mount has also recognised that his preferred position is a “deeper”, more ‘central’ role which suits his passing range and vision, while Grealish has flourished as an inside forward on the left for Villa, utilising his dribbling ability to wreak havoc in the final third.
Lampard will likely look to Christian Pulisic to play a similar role on Monday night, while Mount will continue to operate more centrally. He will be tasked with unlocking Villa’s watertight defence from further back, while looking to feed the likes of Pulisic and Timo Werner when progressing forward.
Aston Villa: Jack Grealish, likewise, has poured cold water on suggestions of a ‘rivalry’ with Mount at international level, describing the debate as “annoying” and explaining how they are not even vying for the same position on the pitch.
“I’ve always been close with Mason. I think he’s a terrific player, and I don’t think we’re even fighting for the same spot, to be honest,” Grealish said last month.
If Mount has been an important player for Chelsea this season then Grealish has been simply indispensable to Villa. The club captain has created the most chances of any player in the Premier League this season (49), has won the most fouls (61) and duels (135), and ranks third only to Harry Kane (10) and Kevin De Bruyne (7) for assists (6).
If Villa are to get something from the capital then they will need Grealish to be firing on all cylinders, and the way he has been playing this term, that seems a foregone conclusion. But, whether the visitors can hold their nerve across the pitch and make it three wins from three is another question.
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Scoreline prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Aston Villa
So far this season, Monday evening’s visitors have been near flawless on the road, winning five of their opening six matches away from Villa Park. This includes victories over Leicester City and Arsenal and, in fact, during that stretch they conceded just two goals at the aforementioned London Stadium.
However, the club have not kept a clean sheet in any of their last 19 Premier League away games against Chelsea (two wins, three draws, 14 defeats) since a 1-0 win back in March 1998, and Lampard will be keen to elicit a response from his players following that concerning loss to Arsenal.
Villa have been in good form and have every chance of leaving Stamford Bridge with points on the board, but without Mings marshalling the backline and the array of talent at Lampard’s disposal, a stalemate seems the most likely outcome in west London on Monday night.
Premier League 2020/21 recent form:
- Chelsea: LWLLW
- Aston Villa: WWDWL
Chelsea vs Aston Villa live stream options:
UK: Amazon Prime Video