Will Ancelotti have a Happy Blue Year?
English Premier League | Chelsea v Aston Villa betting preview - 13:30 Sky Sports 1
Chelsea fans will be hoping that their winter of discontent is beginning to thaw out after their midweek victory over Bolton ended a miserable run of six league games without a win.
Despite taking the points courtesy of a Florent Malouda finish, the performance was still less than convincing and drew boos and groans form the home fans at full time.
The win was enough to haul the Blues back above Tottenham and into the Champions League places. However after after a trail-blazing start to the season that saw them fire in 27 goals in their first 10 matches, a dry spell for their attacking stars has seen them score just six times in nine games.
Carlo Ancelotti could do worse than sitting his team down and showing them a replay of last season's fixture between the two teams at the Bridge. Chelsea were awesome, humiliating Villa 7-1 in March as their quest for the double gathered serious momentum.
That day Frank Lampard scored four times as the would be Champions thrashed Villa. The England midfielder is still making his comeback but will take heart from a full 90 minutes and a win against Bolton. Chelsea have missed their driving force in the middle greatly and if Lampard's fitness and form are refound today, it could be ominous for the visitors.
Branislav Ivanovic serves a one match ban and with Ancelotti unlikely to ask Paulo Ferreira to step in, he could give Jeffrey Bruma, 19, his full league debut.
Villa's terrible form shows no sign of improvement as their capitulation at Eastlands against Man City proved. The Villans have won only once (at home against West Brom) in a six game spell that has delivered five defeats.
This time last year Villa's defence was the envy of many in the league, they were serious contenders for a place in the Champions League (only 2 points off fourth) and were looking forward to the Carling Cup semi-finals.
Martin O'Neill has been replaced by Gerard Houllier, a move that has not worked out as Chairman Randy Lerner would have hope. The rumours of dressing room unrest continue to surface and with the January transfer window now open, reports linking Ashley Young and Stewart Downing refuse to pass.
Houllier will be hoping that the return to fitness of senior players Nigel Reo-Coker, Stiliyan Petrov and Ashley Young will drag his side out of the slump they are in. There might also be places in the squad for Richard Dunne and Stephen Ireland, two players that have been frozen out of the team in recent weeks.
The betting for this game is heavily weighted in favour of Chelsea. The home team are priced at 1/4 to welcome in the New Year with a win while the visitors can be backed at a huge 14/1 with the draw at 4s.
My recommendations for this game are for Florent Malouda to open the scoring. The Frenchman notched in midweek and tends to go on good scoring runs. He also has history against Villa scoring twice in that 7-1 demolition last season. Malouda to open the scoring is priced at 6/1 and 7/4 anytime.
Result wise this one has an easy home win written all over it. With such short odds I'm leaning towards the correct score market where 3-0 Chelsea is 13/2 and 4-0 Chelsea is 10/1.