Managerless Aston Villa continue their dismal campaign against a Chelsea side who remain unbeaten under Guus Hiddink.
Remi Garde left Villa Park by mutual consent on Tuesday after winning just two of his 20 games in charge and losing all of his last six; the Frenchman failed to inspire a change of fortunes in his seemingly demotivated squad.
David Moyes and Nigel Pearson have been installed as the early favourites to take over, but whoever takes the job surely knows they are likely to be managing a Championship side next season; Norwich’s win at West Brom a fortnight ago means Villa now sit 12 points adrift of safety with just seven games to go.
Villa did win this fixture two seasons ago through a Fabian Delph goal, but home fans used to defeat will be more wary of avoiding a fate similar to the 8-0 defeat they suffered when these two teams met at Stamford Bridge in December 2012.
Chelsea collected yet another draw last time out – their sixth stalemate in their last ten games – as Cesc Fabregas’ late goal rescued a point in a 2-2 draw against London rivals West Ham.
They sit ten points off the top four, and may end the season rueing their inability to turn one point into three – despite their awful start under Jose Mourinho, the Blues could still have been seriously challenging for Europe if they had turned more draws into wins under Hiddink.
The west Londoners have been indifferent on the road this season, having won five and lost five of their 14 games and scoring just 16 goals in the process; Villa Park has been a kind venue for most visiting teams this season, however, so the Blues will fancy their chances of improving their away record this weekend.
Gabriel Agbonlahor won’t feature for the hosts after the club announced an investigation into his conduct during a holiday to Dubai over the international break, but Adama Traore and Jack Grealish are available for the first time since January after returning from respective foot and ankle injuries.
For the visitors, Diego Costa has had an extra game added to his current ban so will again miss the trip to Villa Park, Eden Hazard remains sidelined with a hip and groin injury, but Radamel Falcao could feature for the first time since October after overcoming a thigh problem.
League Position: Aston Villa – 20th (16 pts); Chelsea – 10th (41 pts)
Last Meeting: Chelsea 2-0 Aston Villa (October 17, 2015)
Form: Aston Villa – LLLLLL; Chelsea – DWWWDD
Key Men: Aston Villa – Jordan Ayew; Chelsea – Cesc Fabregas
Shoot Says: Aston Villa 0-2 Chelsea