Chelsea will all but secure their place in the Premier League top four should they beat Aston Villa on Saturday.
Following Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with Tottenham, Chelsea lead their fifth-placed London rivals by three points, and another win allied to their vastly superior goal difference should see them over the line.
Rafael Benitez’s men will certainly be confident of doing so, having avoided defeat in their last six league fixtures and winning four of those.
Chelsea also posted an 8-0 win over Paul Lambert’s men in the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge back in December which bodes well for their chances here.
Benitez is still without Ryan Bertrand through injury and revealed on Thursday that Eden Hazard is a doubt, however, the Spaniard expects Oriol Romeu and Victor Moses to prove their fitness in time to feature.
The Spaniard also confirmed that veteran midfielder Frank Lampard will start the game.
The hosts were rocked on Thursday by the news that club captain Stiliyan Petrov is set to retire from football as he continues his battle against leukaemia.
And Benitez claimed that should motivate Lambert’s men, given that the Bulgarian is expected to lead his team-mates out at Villa Park.
“The main thing is that he’s fine its good for everyone and everybody will be happier,” he said. “They have enough motivation but for some of them it will be little bit more. For us we have our own motivation and we will try to do our job.”
Despite that blow, Villa will be buoyed by having almost assured their Premier League safety by reaching the 40-point mark with victories in their last two outings.
But fans will remember that the Midlands club suffered a 4-2 defeat in this fixture last season, with six of the 24 goals which have been scored in the last four meetings between these teams
being netted in that game.