Chelsea must beat Aston Villa if they're to qualify for the Champions League on their own terms on Sunday
After a massive win at home to Leicester City in midweek ensured Champions League qualification was in their own hands, Chelsea try to finish the job at Villa Park on Sunday as they take on Aston Villa.
The Blues went third with the win at Stamford Bridge, having gained revenge for losing the FA Cup final to the Foxes, and will complete the objective set out for Thomas Tuchel when he took over from Frank Lampard back in January should they beat Villa.
Chelsea were ninth when the former PSG boss arrived, and just two league defeats during his reign so far, as well as reaching two cup finals, has surely proved that Roman Abramovich was right to send Lampard packing.
In contrast, Dean Smith’s side’s season practically ended when they beat Tottenham Hotspur last time out, as other results ensured they will finish this season 11th, no matter the result in front of home fans for the first time in 14 months on Sunday.
Despite not capitalising on a chance to push for a European finish this season, this time last year Villa headed into the final game of the season needing to better Watford’s result or face relegation to the Championship. With that in mind, even the most pessimistic of Villa fans would admit this year has been one of huge progress.
As you’d expect, Jack Grealish has been a huge part of that. The winger is back from a calf injury and illness that sidelined him for 12 games between February and May, and his impact was shown against Spurs in midweek. Villa won just three of the games he missed, so his return is a timely boost for both club and country, with Gareth Southgate naming his England squad for Euro 2020 on Tuesday.
Brazilian striker Wesley has played 15 minutes of football since returning from a major ACL injury suffered against Burnley last season and could continue his recovery in front of a packed Holte End, but Matty Cash, Trezeguet and Morgan Sanson are all injured. Ross Barkley also misses out as he’s on loan from Chelsea, and ineligible. Dean Smith has made it clear that his loan won’t be made permanent in the summer, so he’ll be seeking a new club unless Thomas Tuchel tries to shoehorn him into an already packed squad.
For Chelsea, N’Golo Kante is unlikely to be rested ahead of the Champions League final next weekend, after coming off against Leicester as a precaution with a possible hamstring injury. Andreas Christensen is in a similar position with the same problem suffered against Manchester City, and Kai Havertz also has muscle tightness.
A win for Chelsea could see them finish the season just a point behind Manchester United if they lose at Wolves, while Villa can finish 20 points better off than they did last season if they spoil the Blues’ Champions League qualification party.
Aston Villa take on Chelsea at Villa Park on Sunday, May 23rd. Kick-off is at 4pm.