Chelsea prepare to defend their lead at the top of the table during their visit to Villa Park, but will Aston Villa make it easy on them? (Watch live on NBCSN at 1:30 p.m. ET and online via Live Extra).
Villa will be smarting after the reverse fixture ended 2-1 in favor of Chelsea, with Paul Lambert arguing after the match that major calls hadn’t gone his side’s way. The Villa are currently 11th in the table, six points clear of the drop, and although the sides at the bottom make it difficult to think they’ll go down, a bit of a cushion would be nice. And after beating Norwich 4-1 in their last outing, what better time to extract revenge on José Mourinho’s side?
The Blues will have one eye on their midweek Champions League clash with Galatasaray, after their 1-1 draw in the first leg, but they can’t afford to drop points against Villa. After Manchester City’s victory over Hull, they’re just six points clear at the top of the table, and their challengers all have one or two games in hand. But with Chelsea’s 14-game unbeaten streak, is it likely they’ll drop points?
The hosts make just one change – and it’s not of their choosing. Ryan Bertrand, unable to face his parent club, makes way for Joe Bennett at left back. Andi Weimann and Gabby Agbonlahor flank Christian Benteke in a front three.
Mourinho makes three changes to the side that upset Spurs last time around. Fernando Torres is fit again and replaces Samuel Eto’o, while Willian and Oscar come in for Andre Schurrle and Frank Lampard.
Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna, Vlaar, Baker, Bennett, Westwood, Delph, El Ahmadi, Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor.
Subs: Steer, Sylla, Holt, Clark, Albrighton, Lowton, Robinson
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Ramires, Matic; Willian, Oscar, Hazard, Torres
Subs: Schwarzer, Kalas, Mikel, Lampard, Schurrle, Salah, Ba