Premier League

Chelsea-Aston Villa Preview

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel expects Romelu Lukaku and Callum Hudson-Odoi to return for the trip to Aston Villa on Sunday.

The absentee-hit Chelsea were forced by the Premier League to fulfill their fixture with Wolves, a goalless draw at Molineux, before defeating Brentford in the EFL Cup quarter-final.

Chelsea sit third in the league, six points behind leaders Manchester City, and Tuchel could be boosted by the return of Lukaku and Hudson-Odoi following negative COVID-19 tests.

"If I understand correctly we need a negative test first of all, and we had a negative test for Romelu and Callum and Ben Chilwell," said Tuchel.

"Ben Chilwell will not be involved in the Aston Villa game and for the other two they will be on the pitch tomorrow if they test negative again. Then we need to see. The guys have been ill and had symptoms. So let's see.

"It's a Premier League game at one of the toughest places you can play. It's good news, don't get me wrong, but I'm not over-excited now because I need to check how they are."

Villa manager Steven Gerrard has tasted victory in four of his opening six Premier League games with his new club, but expects a tough task from whatever side Tuchel names.

"We will always prepare for the best team, in terms of the opponent," Gerrard said. "If for any reason it's not a strong Chelsea team, we'll deal with that.

"What I would say is they've got a world-class squad littered with world-class players, so I'm sure if they've got enough players to carry the fixture out, we're going to find a really strong Chelsea team."

Aston Villa - Ollie Watkins

Ollie Watkins appears a revitalised figure under Gerrard, scoring again at Norwich City, attempting a game-high six shots and providing another game-leading three key passes.

Chelsea - Mason Mount

Mason Mount had found the target in his last four top-flight outings before firing a blank against Wolves, where he laid on a game-leading three key chances for team-mates.

- In Premier League history, there have been 38 red cards in games played on Boxing Day. 8 per cent of these came in one match - Aston Villa's 4-4 draw away to Chelsea in 2007-08, with Zat Knight being sent off for Villa, and Ricardo Carvalho and Ashley Cole seeing red for the Blues.

- Aston Villa have won their last three Boxing Day league games, their longest winning run on this day since a run of five between 1908 and 1913.

- Chelsea have lost their last two Boxing Day league games, going down 2-0 against Southampton in 2019-20 and 3-1 at Arsenal last term. Only once have the Blues ever lost three such games in a row, doing so between 1912 and 1914.

- Chelsea's last two Premier League games have finished level, with the Blues last drawing three consecutive league games back in February 2012. Meanwhile, they've never gone three league games without a win so far under Thomas Tuchel.

- Chelsea have only failed to score in two of their 18 Premier League away games under Thomas Tuchel - a 0-0 draw with Leeds in March, and another 0-0 draw with Wolves in their last match.

Updated December 23, 2021

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