With the Premier League back on our screens and the games in hand now played, the rest of the teams join the party this weekend with plenty on the line from the first kick off.
Relegation threatened Aston Villa have a second consecutive home match, this time against Frank Lampard’s Chelsea who are the current holders of fourth spot and in pole position to take a Champions League berth next season.
But with some uncertainty over the future of a couple of experienced pros and plenty of players short of competitive match fitness, this could be a tricky return for the Blues.
Villa, even if they were incredibly lucky in their opener against Sheffield United in getting away with that ghost goal, looked sharper on Wednesday night than they had prior to lockdown.
Where to Watch: Sunday 21 June
What Time Is Kick Off: 16.15 (BST)
Where Is it Played: Villa Park
TV Channel/Live Stream: Sky Sports (UK), FuboTV (US)
Referee? Paul Tierney
Villa came through their opening fixture without any major concerns and boss Dean Smith will be glad the returning John McGinn got through 75 minutes unscathed after returning from a fractured ankle.
They will need to assess the fitness of defenders Björn Engels and Frédéric Guilbert, who sat out the opening fixture. They will also be without Danny Drinkwater, who is ineligible to play against his parent club.
For Chelsea, the big news is the return of Ruben Loftus-Cheek. It’s been over a year since he last kicked a ball for the Blues, though the dynamic midfielder is unlikely to be risked from the start after such a long lay off.
Jorginho will be absent as he serves the last of a two game domestic ban, and long serving winger Pedro is unlikely to feature, with the Spaniard set to depart for Roma in the near future. N’Golo Kante only resumed contact training last week, so Lampard will likely wait until nearer the game to decide whether he is ready to feature from the start.
Aston Villa: Nyland; Guilbert, Hause, Mings, Targett; McGinn, Douglas Luiz, Hourihane; El Ghazi, Samatta, Grealish.
Chelsea: Kepa; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Rudiger, Alonso; Kante, Kovacic, Mount; Willian, Abraham, Pulisic.
These two clubs go back a long way and have met well over 100 times in competitive football, with Chelsea leading the head to head with 63 wins to Villa’s 57. However, the Villans have only won one of their last ten fixtures against the west London side.
The last time the sides met was in early December, when goals from Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount sealed a 2-1 victory for the home side at Stamford Bridge despite a fighting display from Villa.
Villa have Hawk-Eye’s failings to thank for the 0-0 result in their opening match. Goalkeeper Ørjan Nyland clearly carried Ollie Norwood’s free-kick over the line, but with no alert going to referee Michael Oliver’s ‘smart’ watch, the goal was not awarded.
However, they did perform well for the majority of the match and tested Dean Henderson on several occasions, though they should have been more clinical. Smith will certainly be glad his side didn’t add to their 56 conceded goals this campaign, an issue that is largely responsible for their current predicament.
Chelsea went into lockdown in great domestic form, having completed a 4-0 drubbing of Everton and sweeping past Liverpool in the FA Cup fifth round a few days before. These results were made the more impressive due to the fact the Blues had a depleted squad with several key players on the sidelines.
Young Scot Billy Gilmour impressively stepped up in both matches in the absence of Kante and Jorginho and commanded the midfield with a maturity beyond his years, once again vindicating Lampard’s decision to put his faith in the youngsters.
Here are both sides’ recent form in all competitions.
Aston Villa 0-0 Sheffield United (17/6)
Leicester 4-0 Aston Villa (9/3)
Southampton 2-0 Aston Villa (22/2)
Aston Villa 2-3 Tottenham (16/2)
Bournemouth 2-1 Aston Villa (1/2)
Chelsea 4-0 Everton (8/3)
Chelsea 2-0 Liverpool (3/3)
Bournemouth 2-2 Chelsea (29/2)
Chelsea 0-3 Bayern Munich (25/2)
Chelsea 2-1 Tottenham (22/2)
Despite Chelsea being clear favourites, Villa will take heart from their solid defensive display against Sheffield United. However, the Blues pose a very different kind of threat and one historically that Villa haven’t dealt with effectively.
The speed and tactical nous of Chelsea’s attacking stars Willian, Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic should prove too much for Jack Grealish’s Villa on Sunday.
Prediction: Aston Villa 0-2 Chelsea