The hosts have problems in attack as Emile Heskey remains doubtful after picking up calf and shin injuries against Tottenham, while Gabriel Agbonlahor is still recovering from groin surgery, so John Carew may start.
Gerard Houllier faces a selection dilemma in defence due to Carlos Cuellar’s form this season but looks likely to continue with James Collins alongside Richard Dunne.
Young duo Fabian Delph (knee) and Andreas Weimann (foot) remain long-term absentees.
Probable starting XI: Friedel; L Young, Collins, Dunne, Warnock; Albrighton, Reo-Coker, Petrov, Downing; A Young; Carew.
Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed Frank Lampard (groin) and Didier Drogba (virus) will miss the trip to Villa Park, meaning Gael Kakuta will start in attack.
John Terry has been passed fit after picking up a back injury on international duty, so he will start alongside Branislav Ivanovic at centre-back.
Meanwhile, the Blues were struck another blow this week as summer signing Yossi Benayoun was ruled out until April with an Achilles injury.
Confirmed starting XI: Cech; Ferreira, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Essien, Mikel, Ramires, Kakuta, Anelka, Malouda.
European battle alive and well
Aston Villa were expected to challenge for a place in the Europa League again this season following three successive sixth-placed finishes. Martin O’Neill’s departure - and a 6-0 hammering away at Newcastle United - threw into doubt whether they would be able to maintain their league position. However, they now lie eighth in the table and, with Everton and Liverpool both struggling this season, could be set for another European challenge.
Chelsea, meanwhile, have had one of the best starts ever to a Premier League season. Carlo Ancelotti’s men have won six out of their first seven games, scoring 23 goals and conceding just twice in the process. Even a defeat to Villa would still see the Blues top the table due to their four point lead over their nearest challengers, second-placed Manchester City.
Chelsea arrived at Villa Park in mid-October last season after a blistering start in the Premier League, having lost only once and having just beat one of the ‘big four’, Liverpool, 2-0 at home. While the statistics are remarkably similar, few would expect the Blues to lose on this occasion.
Ancelotti’s side - one of the biggest, strongest, most physical teams in the top flight - were surprisingly undone by two set-pieces at Villa Park last season, losing 2-1 courtesy of goals from centre-backs James Collins and Richard Dunne. However, later in the campaign Chelsea were to get their revenge, battering Villa 7-0 at Stamford Bridge in the league and 3-0 at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final.
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