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Aston Villa-Chelsea Preview
Frank Lampard is sweating on the availability of top striker Tammy Abraham as Chelsea look to bounce back from a weekend defeat Wednesday when they host promoted Aston Villa.
Abraham, who is tied for second in the Premier League with 10 goals, was a spectator Saturday when Chelsea (8-2-4) were second-best on a 1-0 derby loss to West Ham United at home. The defeat was not for lack of effort - the Pensioners outshot West Ham 19-5 and put six efforts on target - but a lack of finishing by fill-in starter Olivier Giroud and an ineffective hour by Pedro contributed to Chelsea being blanked for the first time in league play since opening the season with a 4-0 defeat at Manchester United.
"We were below par in many parts of our game, it's not one, but we didn't do enough in the final third," Lampard told the club's official website. "That's been a little bit of the story in our last three games. They were different, with Man City we got in the final third a lot and didn't do quite enough with our choice of pass or cross or shot, similar to Valencia.
"Today we didn't get in there quite as much , but we need to be more inventive and generally we have been this season. My grips this season has been more that we're not converting enough of the chances that we're making. Today wasn't quite that, we didn't quite create enough."
While Lampard did not single out Giroud or Pedro for their performances, it does seem likely Michy Batshuayi would lead the line if Abraham were sidelined a second straight match. It would also not be surprising to see Willian and Pedro flip roles on the flank while Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic maintain their spots underneath the centre-forward.
The silver lining from the weekend was Chelsea's loss was not all that damaging. The Pensioners still have a six-point lead for fourth in the table, as Spurs and Wolves are their closest pursuers.
Aston Villa (4-3-7) are a distant 15th on 15 points, ahead of Brighton and Hove Albion on goal difference and three points clear of the drop. The Villans, though, have gotten results from their last two matches and picked up a vital point Sunday in their bid to stay up with a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford versus Manchester United.
Jack Grealish and Tyrone Mings scored on either side of halftime, with Mings' volley off a deft chip from Matt Target in the 66th minute standing as the equaliser after surviving a VAR review. Grealish has a goal and an assist in Villa's last two matches, and as the 24-year-old continues to force his way onto England's squad for next year's European Championship, it is becoming evident with each match Villa's fortunes are directly tied to their playmaker.
"If he keeps performing, then he just keeps putting more pressure on those that pick the squads," Villa boss Dean Smith told the club's official website.
Smith will have to do some tinkering to his first XI as defender Frederic Guilbert will miss this match after picking up his fifth yellow card in Sunday's draw. Winger Anwar El Ghazi, who set up Grealish's goal, is a doubt for this match after being forced off in the 18th minute with a knee injury.
If El Ghazi is unable to play, Trezeuget would likely fill that spot after being called into action Sunday as his replacement.
Guilbert's absence could loom large given Villa have shipped 22 goals and yielded two or more goals in four of their last five matches. The Claret and Blue have taken just four points from their seven road matches (1-1-5), but this is also their fifth trip to a Big Six ground, having already lost at Spurs, Arsenal, and Manchester City before Sunday's draw.
This is the first meeting between the sides since Aston Villa were relegated in 2015-16. Chelsea did the double that term and have won four straight over the Villans. The Midlands club have also been outscored 15-1 in losing their last four at Stamford Bridge and have just two wins in their last 18 visits (2-3-13).
Updated December 2, 2019