Villa v Chelsea stats: Vlaar/Baker developing formidable pairing
Villa welcome one of the Barclays Premier League's in-form sides to Villa Park this weekend.
Paul Lambert and his emerging team will hope to sign off in style in front of their home support following a hugely encouraging run of results.
Only two sides have picked up more points than Villa over the last eight league matches  and with Chelsea one of those [along with Arsenal] this will clearly be a battle of two of the on-song sides in the top-flight.
The home team will be out for revenge after a humbling defeat in the reverse fixture but since a poor run of performances over the festive period Villa have shown bags of character.
For this reason, the latest encounter is likely to be a far closer affair.
Since the turn of the year, only Liverpool have scored more goals than Villa, with twenty-nine representing one more than Chelsea as well as two more than both Arsenal and Man Utd.
Villa netted twice the last time Chelsea came to visit with goals from James Collins and Eric Lichaj levelling matters before the Blues went on to seal the game with goals from Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres.
Conceding goals was an issue earlier this season but the current centre-back partnership of Ron Vlaar and Nathan Baker have looked more reliable in games against Sunderland and Norwich, both of whom could only register two shots on target.
One man who missed the reverse fixture between the two sides was captain Vlaar, whose return to full fitness has brought stability to a youthful backline.
Eight of Villa's ten wins this season have come in the twenty-five games that the Dutchman has started, with Lambert's side picking up 1.24 points per game with Vlaar in the XI compared to just 0.82 in the eleven games he missed through injury.
The side have conceded 1.68 goals per game when the 28 year old has started, compared to 2.09 while he was absent and Vlaar's presence will be crucial against a free-flowing Chelsea attack.
The former Feyenoord defender has forged an encouraging partnership with Baker of late and the stats when the two have started alongside one another support that.
Lambert's Lions have picked up more points per game in the seven matches that Vlaar and Baker have been the starting centre-backs [1.43] than any other defensive combination this season, with Vlaar and Ciaran Clark second [1.27].
Villa have conceded 1.43 goals per game in those matches, which is considerable lower than their average over the other twenty-nine matches this season of 1.90.
In terms of shots conceded, Villa have allowed their opponents 13.7 efforts per game in the seven matches in which the two have been partnered, which is again the best of any defensive combination, with just 3.3 of those strikes hitting the target.
When comparing those respective figures with the twenty-nine games that the two have not started as the centre-back pairing, the results are clear.
Villa have conceded 17.4 shots per game in those matches on average, with 5.3 of those efforts per game on target.
While Vlaar brings an experienced head to proceedings, Baker's barnstorming and brave displays have been excellent.
Only Swansea's Ashley Williams has blocked more shots per game this season [1.4], with the 22-year-old's willingness to put his body on the line extremely admirable.
His average of 9.4 clearances per game also ranks among the league's top ten in eighth, while only four centre-backs have won more aerial duels a match [3.5].
While the goals are flying in at one end, the development of Vlaar and Baker's understanding bodes well ahead of the visit of Chelsea.
Find yet more statistics on Aston Villa and the rest of the Premier League, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings at WhoScored.com. Follow @WhoScored and their editor-in-chief @martinlaurence7 on Twitter.