Two of English football’s brightest young managers face off when Aston Villa host Chelsea on Sunday.
Villa boss Steven Gerrard is under pressure to turn his underperforming squad’s fortunes around following a run of only one win in their last six — a sequence that has seen the Midlands club drop into the Premier League’s bottom five.
In stark contrast, Chelsea are charging up charts in both domestic and European competition, with recently-installed head coach Graham Potter having brought the midas touch with him from Brighton.
The Blues have scored 11 times in their last five matches compared to eight in predecessor Thomas Tuchel’s last seven games with Potter basking in the afterglow of a statement win at AC Milan — Chelsea’s first victory on Italian soil since 2003.
Leon Bailey has returned to Aston Villa training and is available for selection this weekend after a minor muscle injury.
Philippe Coutinho and Emiliano Buendia’s places in Gerrard’s starting XI are both under threat from Bailey’s return, while Ollie Watkins could also be dropped with Danny Ings pushing for a recall up front.
Poland international full-back Matty Cash is having his training workload carefully managed but is available for Sunday, but Lucas Digne will not be ready to return until later in the month.
Chelsea suffered a major blow in Milan when Reece James hobbled off with a knee injury and he will see a specialist over the weekend to confirm the severity of the problem.
N’Golo Kante is also due to see a consultant at the weekend after his own setback and will remain sidelined for some time.
Wesley Fofana is also out for the Blues, who look set to include Trevoh Chalobah in a three-man defence again with Cesar Azpilicueta due to fill in at right wing-back.
Potter made seven changes for the victory over Wolves, followed by six as Chelsea beat Milan 2-0 at the San Siro, so another reshuffle would seem most likely.