With the Premier League season all but wrapped up, the final round of fixtures has precious little left to decide. Really, the only things up for grabs are the final UEFA Champions League spots. After their 2-1 win at home to Leicester City, the Blues know they are just one win away from UCL participation in 2021-22.
To achieve that, though, they need to go to Aston Villa and win. A win guarantees a UCL spot and likely a third place finish. Anything other than a win, though, opens up some very confusing questions about what is going to happen next for the Blues – and could have massive repercussions on their seasons to come.
The Villa will be arriving into this one knowing they are playing a team they rarely do anything against. Indeed, five losses and a draw make up their last six games against the Blues. However, that draw arrived in December 2020, when they draw 1-1 at Stamford Bridge.
Expect Villa to have a pretty strong team to put out, though there is the likelihood that some key performers will be rested. Blues fans might have hoped to see Ross Barkley, but he will be ineligible to play and, really, has completely fallen out of the starting picture at Villa after a fast start to the 2020-21 season.
For now, then, Villa will have a pretty full team to take on Chelsea on Sunday afternoon.
Chelsea have their eyes on the UCL Final, but have to make sure they do the damage here to guarantee participation for next season. Therefore, expect Chelsea to go full-strength to avoid the risk of anything going wrong. The only question really stems from the forward line. Could Tammy Abraham make a rare start to keep Timo Werner and Olivier Giroud fit? Could the veteran Frenchman start here instead?
Either way, the Blues should have a team that is more than capable of turning up at Villa and playing with the required quality. They should have a mostly fit squad to choose from, though coach Thomas Tuchel might decide to make some changes to the personnel just in a bid to avoid injury or fatigue.
If Chelsea should be able to build a sizeable lead early, it could make good sense to make a lot of substitutions to save the energy of the starters. This means that some of the younger stars like Billy Gilmour who was recently included in Scotland’s Euro2020 squad.
With a 22-point gap between the teams, Chelsea arrive knowing they have something to play for. Villa have nothing but pride to play for. With their inability to hold a lead and Chelsea having plenty of history this year of coming back from losing positions and in hunting the opposition into making mistakes and losing the ball, we can only see one winner here.
The main thing for Villa is they tend to be a team who relies on individual moments to make their progress and success. Expect Chelsea to see most of the time, and if they can shut down the gaps that could allow the key Villa attackers like Oli Watkins to thrive then they should be well in position to dominate in Birmingham here. Expect a Chelsea win, but probably less comfortable than one would hope for given the big game waiting on the 29th.