Chelsea could be without John Terry for all of their Christmas fixtures as the knee injury sustained against Liverpool has been more problematic than expected. Ryan Bertrand is a doubt after the knock picked up midweek at Elland Road. Ramires and Gary Cahill return from suspension, and the reportedly Anfield-bound Daniel Sturridge is available for selection as well.
Aston Villa will most likely be without Ron Vlaar and Gabby Agbonlahor for the visit to Stamford Bridge, but midfielder Stephen Ireland will be fit to play after recovering from the illness that kept him out of the side that won at Anfield last weekend.
Paul Lambert has said that he expects Chelsea will be perfectly fresh for the match despite their recent packed schedule. Chelsea’s win over Leeds on Wednesday night came on the heel of their return from the Club World Cup in Japan, but Lambert doesn’t think the travelling will affect them:
“I hope the travelling affects them - but I don't think it will. They had a good result the other night against Leeds.
"The tiredness only comes in if you are not getting results, if you're winning nobody bothers.”
Lambert also praised his opposite number at Chelsea, but Benitez himself admits he is far from certain what his future holds at Stamford Bridge. The Spaniard has had a mixed start to life at Chelsea, with big wins over Nordsjaelland and Leeds countered by missing out on the Club World Cup and losing at West Ham.
One man whose Chelsea future looks more secure is John Terry, with reports today that the club are set to offer him an extension to his current contract, which expires in 2014. Terry has previously said h would like to see out his career at Stamford Bridge.
Reports in France have linked Chelsea with goalkeeper Mickael Landreau, who is a free agent having been released from Lille. The 33 year old might come in as cover for Petr Cech, ahead of Hilario and Ross Turnbull.
Rafa Benitez has praised Fernando Torres after his recent return to goal scoring form. The striker’s goal against Leeds was his sixth in the past five matches he has played.
Branislav Ivanovic has said that he believes the winning mentally is returning to Chelsea, after bouncing back from going a goal down to win 5-1 at Leeds. Ahead of a busy festive fixture list Ivanovic also emphasised the importance of winning ugly in the games when the players will be tired.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald