Frank Lampard promised changes, and he has made six of them. Azpilicueta, Rudiger and Christensen come in as three of the back four are swapped out (James, Zouma and Thiago Silva, since you ask), while further forward Giroud and Hudson Odoi replace Werner and Abraham.
Villa only make one change, and that wasn’t their choice: Mings is suspended, and Konsa comes in.
The temperature is expected to hover between a chilly 2C and and imperceptibly less chilly 3C for the remainder of the day, and it looks like hoods are very much required at Stamford Bridge:
The teams are in, and these are those teams:
Chelsea: Mendy, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger, Chilwell, Kante, Jorginho, Mount, Pulisic, Giroud, Hudson-Odoi. Subs: Arrizabalaga, Thiago Silva, Abraham, Werner, Tomori, Kovacic, Gilmour, Havertz, Emerson Palmieri.
Aston Villa: Martinez, Cash, Hause, Konsa, Targett, Douglas Luiz, McGinn, Traore, Grealish, El Ghazi, Watkins. Subs: Heaton, Taylor, Hourihane, Nakamba, Engels, Guilbert, Elmohamady, Davis, Ramsey.
Referee: Stuart Attwell.
The best thing about this fixture from the home side’s point of view is that it gives them a near-instant chance to play the Arsenal defeat, and for that matter the Everton and Wolves defeats, out of their system. They have the division’s second-best home record, not having lost at home in any competition since Liverpool played at Stamford Bridge in September (it’s a weird season, though, and there are four teams with away records at least as good as Chelsea’s home record is, including Aston Villa), and now they have a chance to extend it. Lampard notably accused his players of lacking character at Arsenal on Boxing Day, which will either leave them massively motivated to prove their mettle tonight, or, well, it won’t. If they continue to find motivation elusive, Aston Villa will be ready to punish them. The Villains are a side transformed this season, start the game ahead of Chelsea on goal difference (by one) and only Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester City have taken more shots than them.
In head-to-head news, precisely 50% of the last 10 games between these sides have ended 2-1 to Chelsea. The other five have finished 2-0, 3-0, 4-0 and 8-0 to Chelsea, with Villa claiming a rogue 1-0 home win in March 2014. This combination of teams tends to produce entertainment: just three of the last 21 games between Chelsea and Villa have been drawn, and even they averaged 4⅔ goals each (and one was goalless). For some reason, I’m really looking forward to this one. Welcome!