It goes without saying that it is imperative Chelsea win this game in hand and cut United’s advantage to four points.
After Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Fulham, Jose Mourinho publicly named several players who he felt had underperformed in recent weeks.
Paulo Ferreira, Andriy Shevchenko, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Salomon Kalou and Geremi all came in for criticism.
It was a surprise to many that Michael Ballack wasn’t included.
Ballack is suspended for this game. The impact of his absence is sure to be closely examined.
John Terry is set to play in a behind-closed-doors friendly later this week as he continues his recovery from back surgery, while Joe Cole is thought to have undergone surgery on his broken foot which is expected to keep him out for some time.
Arjen Robben is still struggling with a hamstring injury but Khalid Boulahrouz returns after serving a one-game ban.
Aston Villa will be without Gareth Barry who is suspended following his red card against Charlton, while Stiliyan Petrov could miss out with a hamstring problem.
Villa are on a run of nine games without a win and have lost their last four and their last three games at Villa Park.
The Blues have not beaten Villa at Villa Park since March 1999.