Villa were involved in a relegation battle for much of last season, and they are in danger of falling to the same fate again this year. Although they are 11th in the league, they have lost nine of their 14 home fixtures this season, a worrying stat for manager Paul Lambert. The gap between them and bottom-side Fulham is just 10 points, and the fixture list has not been kind to the Midlanders.
They still have to play five of the nine sides below them in the table as well as Champions League-chasing Tottenham Hotspur and both Manchester clubs. With so much at stake in the run-in, Chelsea will have to be aware of the threat posed by the hosts.
Ryan Bertrand, on loan from Chelsea and therefore unavailable for this match, told Sky Sports that the team are aiming for a top-10 finish, starting with a win over his parent club. Striker Gabby Agbonlahor confirmed this, telling Sky Sports:
The gaffer gives us the confidence – his instructions are to go out and play freely. He doesn’t want us not to go forward and he gives us an attacking incentive. That came off against Norwich. Fingers crossed, we can continue to do it.
We have to be on top of our performance to get anything. We’re looking forward to it because they are the games players want to play in. We have had our ups and downs this season but it’s important we take the ups from the Norwich game going into the next two home games with confidence. We’ve seen what we can do when we play at home at a high tempo. We have left it late to start getting the results at home but it has always been coming.
Despite their optimism, it is unlikely that the Villan’s recovery will start against Chelsea. Even with the Champions League tie with Galatasaray on the horizon, the Blues will be focused on maintaining their position at the top of the league.
In the same fixture last season, Frank Lampard scored his 202nd and 203rd goals for Chelsea to become their all-time top scorer, and Jose Mourinho will be looking for an equally inspirational performance on Saturday evening. Mohamed Salah, cup-tied for the Champions League fixture, could be handed his full debut in the league, while Eden Hazard and Cesar Azpilicueta will be expected to continue their fine individual form.
With so much at stake for both sides, you could expect a cautious approach from the "Special One," but it is difficult to predict anything other than a win for the visitors at Villa Park.