Not many would have said this a couple of months back but Paul Lambert’s exciting young Aston Villa side will be another test of Rafa Benitez’s credentials as Chelsea’s interim manager.
After returning from Tokyo without the World Club Championship, Chelsea gained retribution with a 5-1 mauling of Leeds in midweek to reach the Capital One Cup semi-finals and return to league action 13 points adrift of Manchester United, albeit with a game in hand.
Villa, meanwhile, are at last beginning to find their feet after a difficult opening to the season and last weekend’s magnificent 3-1 victory at Anfield typified their new found belief.
The last time they achieved such a scoreline came in August 2009, when Martin O’Neill’s side were challenging for Champions League honours.
Villa will be motivated by their recent record at Stamford Bridge, which has seen them defeated just twice in their last five visits.
KICK-OFF: Sunday 4pm
PAST THREE MEETINGS…
Aston Villa 2 (Collins, Lichaj) Chelsea 4 (Sturridge, Ivanovic 2, Torres), Premier League, March 2012
Chelsea 1 (Drogba) Aston Villa 3 (Ireland, Petrov, Bent), Premier League, December 2011
Chelsea 3 (Lampard, Drogba, Terry) Aston Villa 3 (Young, Heskey, Clark), Premier League, January 2011
Rafa Benitez has suffered just one defeat in 12 meetings with Aston Villa as a Premier League boss (W7 D4).
Aston Villa’s biggest ever Premier League defeat came at Stamford Bridge in 2010 – a 7-1 thrashing.
73% of Aston Villa’s Premier League goals this season (11 of 15) have come from strikers; a higher proportion of any other side.
No player has assisted more goals in the top five European leagues since the start of last season than Eden Hazard (22).
Chelsea to win: 1.36
Aston Villa to win: 10.5
Aston Villa’s last visit to Stamford Bridge ended in a surprise comeback victory, heaping the pressure on then manager Andre Villas-Boas in what was undoubtedly the highlight of Alex McLeish’s one year stint in charge.
Stephen Ireland was the architect of Villa’s triumph, scoring one and making another after Didier Drogba had opened the scoring from the penalty spot.
Ireland equalised five minutes later and McLeish’s side took the lead on 83 minutes when Stilyan Petrov calmed slotted through the legs of Petr Cech.
And Villa confirmed the victory in the final moments of normal time when Frank Lampard’s mistake let in Ireland who unselfishly squared for Darren Bent to seal the win.
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