Chelsea’s first game after the three-month long break will be an away trip to Villa Park against Dean Smith’s Aston Villa. Both the clubs are on different sides of the table, with Chelsea pushing for a finish in the top four, while Aston Villa looking to get out of the relegation zone.
Here are five key head to head battles that could decide the fate of the match on Sunday.
Mbwana Samatta vs Tammy Abraham
Young England striker Tammy Abraham has had a brilliant first season with Chelsea, scoring 13 league goals in 23 games so far. The 22-year-old has been leading the Chelsea front-line and Frank Lampard has shown faith in the youngster by preferring him over the experienced Olivier Giroud.
Tammy was part of the Villa team last season which secured promotion to the top-flight, scoring a whopping 26 goals for them. His prior experience playing under Dean Smith and the rest of the Villa players will definitely help him against the Villans.
Samatta was signed from Genk in the winter transfer window after Brazilian forward Wesley Moraes suffered a horrific injury on New Year’s Day. The 27-year-old has since then made 5 appearances for the club as the striker before the lockdown, but the club suffered four straight losses in the league. The Tanzanian will be itching to win his first game in the league with the club and will be crucial in their fight for survival in the top flight.
Jack Grealish vs Mason Mount
Jack Grealish has been one of Villa’s standout performers this season, the focal point of their attack, coming in off the left-wing. He already has notched an impressive 7 goals and 6 assists in the league this season and appears ready to make a strong return to football after the break.
If he continues his past form for the remainder of their league, Grealish will make a very strong case for his inclusion in the Euros squad for next year.
Twenty-one-year-old Mount was brilliant in midfield under Lampard at Derby last season and has quickly adapted to playing with Chelsea in the top-flight. The Chelsea academy graduate has featured in all but four of their league games and will play a key role in Chelsea’s push for the top four. Mount has scored six goals and four assists so far and will be looking to get back strongly.
John McGinn vs Mateo Kovacic
McGinn has been a key figure in Dean Smith’s squad, but an injury in winter forced him out of the team for the second half of the season. But the midfielder has now fully recovered and is now raring to go again and aid Villa in their survival hopes. His tireless attitude and fantastic work-rate makes him a fan favorite at Villa Park and it will be interesting to see him faceoff against Kovacic in midfield.
Mateo Kovacic has probably been Chelsea’s best player under Frank Lampard and has really proven his worth, showcasing his dribbling, passing skills and putting in a great defensive display as well.
While he has not been involved in many of the goals, his precise and pinpoint passes have really had an impact on the team, making him a very reliable option in midfield.
Tyrone Mings vs Kurt Zouma
Mings quickly became a fan favorite at Aston Villa after his move from AFC Bournemouth was made permanent in the summer.
His defensive awareness will be key in stopping Chelsea’s rapid transition and counter-attacking play. He has pretty pace for a defender and will need to be on his toes throughout the ninety to keep in check the Chelsea forwards.
Kurt Zouma has been fantastic for Chelsea since his return to the club from Everton. The Frenchman has really matured into an able and physically imposing defender and is adept at dealing with any aerial threats.
The defender is known for his no-nonsense attitude and will have to deal with the dribbling and pace of Jack Grealish. His bullish attitude will be key to shrugging off the Villa attackers and especially the highly physical Samatta.
Anwar El Ghazi vs Christian Pulisic
El Ghazi has formed an excellent partnership with Jack Grealish in the Aston Villa attack and has made 25 appearances for Villa this season. The winger has been consistent for the Birmingham based side since his move from Lille, and has scored four times alongside providing four assists this season. It’ll be a tough task to come up against the Chelsea backline with Reece James potentially starting at right-back and El Ghazi will have to use all his experience against the youngster.
Pulisic has scored six times and assisted six others already in just 23 appearances in his first season at Chelsea. The American had a nasty injury back in January but is now fit enough to take part in the rest of Chelsea’s games. The winger will be itching to get back on the pitch after a long five months and rearing to unleash his pace against the Villa defense.