Leon Bailey will be available to start when Aston Villa visit Chelsea on Saturday evening, while Dean Smith could recall striker Ollie Watkins to his line-up at Stamford Bridge.
The Villans travel to west London following the international break looking to claim a second win of the season. Smith’s men will face a tough test in the capital against Thomas Tuchel’s unbeaten Blues. Chelsea have only conceded one goal over their first three games.
Bailey has boosted Smith ahead of Aston Villa departing Birmingham for Chelsea, with the Jamaican available for a first start. The winger has only played half an hour in the Premier League since joining from Bayer Leverkusen for £25m.
Smith confirmed on Friday that Bailey is available to make his first start in the Aston Villa line-up against Chelsea. The Villans boss also noted Watkins is in contention after featuring against Brentford last time out. The striker missed the start of the term with a knee injury.
“We’re getting healthier,” Smith said, via AVFC.co.uk. “We’ve lost a lot of players during the start of the season and this international window has given us an opportunity to get some back to full fitness. We should be welcoming Ollie Watkins back to the fold – he played 15 minutes against Brentford. We’ve also got Leon Bailey back to full fitness now.
“Bertrand Traore has trained the last couple of days, as well. John McGinn and Jacob Ramsey have recovered from their Covid-19 situations, too. Carney Chukwuemeka unfortunately got injured in the England U19s game, so he’ll be missing this weekend.”
Smith faces midfield puzzle in Aston Villa line-up vs Chelsea
Aston Villa will also be without Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia on Saturday after representing Argentina over the international break. Per Sky Sports, they are now training in Croatia to avoid quarantining after travelling to a red-list country.
In Martinez’s place, Birmingham Live report Smith will likely set start Jed Steer in the Aston Villa line-up against Chelsea. The shot-stopper last featured in the Premier League against Wolves in November 2019, but suffered a calf injury after eight-minutes.
Buendia and Chukwuemeka’s absences will force Smith to make two changes in midfield with Bailey replacing the Argentine out wide. McGinn, meanwhile, will likely come in for the latter to partner Douglas Luiz in the centre after recovering from coronavirus.
With Watkins available, Smith could pair the £75k-a-week striker with his £25m summer signing from Southampton, Danny Ings. The Aston Villa boss fielding both at Chelsea would be aggressive, and likely see Ashley Young fall to the side. The 36-year-old has started all three of the Villans’ Premier League fixtures, but has not yet held a fixed role.
Aston Villa predicted line-up vs Chelsea: Steer (GK), Cash, Mings, Tuanzebe, Targett, Luiz, McGinn, Bailey, El Ghazi, Ings, Watkins