It will already be the third time this season that both sides have faced off. The two met twice in September at Stamford Bridge with Villa coming out on the wrong end of the result twice - a penalty defeat in the EFL Cup following a 1-1 draw in regular time and a 3-0 loss in the league.
It’s safe to say the two know each other rather well at this point but that ‘knowing’ may go out of the window due to the current uncertainty surrounding who and who may not be available when it gets down to game day.
What we do know is that Villa are doing well following their postponement against Burnley last time out. Only one unnamed player had tested positive at the time of Steven Gerrard’s press conference on December 22 so unless anything drastically changes between now and then - the manager could have a near full squad to choose from.
Emiliano Martinez - Mr. Reliable himself. One player you don’t want getting Covid but it’s the only way he’d be losing his spot at this moment in time.
Like between the sticks, the back four have found themselves in fine form since the arrival of Gerrard and unless forced to do so - there would be no reason to switch it up.
With that said, expect the usual of Matty Cash and Matt Targett on the right and left bombing up and down with captain Tyrone Mings partnered by Ezri Konsa in the centre.
Midfield is where things get interesting, especially with the injury to Marvelous Nakamba.
Against Norwich, Gerrard decided to bring Jacob Ramsey back from his more forward position to help out in the middle and I think he does the same here. If Chelsea’s squad is depleted, which it well could be, Ramsey’s energy will be invaluable in the middle.
Douglas Luiz hasn’t really put a foot wrong since returning from injury and John McGinn has been a consistent performer all season in his role. Unless any of those three have been affected by Covid - it would be a huge surprise to see anything other than that.
Danny Ings has been left out of the starting line-up in recent weeks but I see him getting the nod to return for this one.
Ashley Young started on the left in the win over Norwich City but was highly ineffective throughout so it wouldn’t be a shock to see him come out of the side. If that’s the case, Ollie Watkins will take up the position on the left of the front three with Ings playing down the middle and the ever-improving Emiliano Buendia on the right.
Aston Villa predicted XI (4-3-3): Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; McGinn, Ramsey, Luiz; Watkins, Ings, Buendia
Don’t take the predicted XI as gospel - with all the changes happening at this moment in time, don’t be surprised to see Jed Steer getting the nod up top!
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