REUTERS - While most managers fret over congested fixtures during the festive season, Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert must be thankful his shellshocked side have only two days to stew over Sunday’s 8-0 mauling by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Villa’s worst ever league defeat has dragged them back into the relegation battle and the Midlands side now sit just three points above the drop zone.
The defeat was all the more galling for Villa given they had gone five games unbeaten in the Premier League since a 5-0 drubbing by champions Manchester City last month, while Chelsea’s form had been patchy under interim coach Rafa Benitez.
Scot Lambert acknowledged his team had been second best in every department on Sunday.
“Everything that could go wrong went wrong,” he told Villa’s official website. “We have been on a really good run but we got beaten up today by a really good side. We were second best.”
Spanish striker Fernando Torres needed just three minutes to confirm his return to form to put Chelsea 1-0 up, before David Luiz and Branislav Ivanovic made it 3-0 at the break.
Frank Lampard marked his 500th Premier League game with a fourth before Ramires (two), Oscar and Eden Hazard joined the fun for Chelsea, who also missed a penalty.
Stamford Bridge has not been a happy hunting ground for Villa, who were hammered 7-1 there in 2010.
Lambert said Sunday’s defeat would sting his side into action and he was looking for a response when they host sixth-placed Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday.
“You always learn when you win, lose or draw. That will be a wake-up call for us,” he added.
“We only have two days to mull over it but we have to go again against Tottenham on Wednesday. I am sure whoever plays on Wednesday will atone for that.”
Former Norwich boss Lambert has had a mixed start since taking over at Villa at the end of last season, taking just six points from their opening nine Premier League games.
However, their recent unbeaten run, which included an impressive 3-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield last week, gave the fans hope they had turned the corner.
Lambert said he had not given his players a roasting in the dressing room after the embarrassing defeat to Chelsea as they were well aware their level of performance was unacceptable.
“You can go in there and rant and rave all you want but it won’t really do you much good. They know my feelings on it,” he said. “But they know themselves that they have let everybody down.”
Also on Sunday, Norwich City said they had come to an agreement with Lambert and Aston Villa to settle the dispute over his departure at the end of last season.
Villa will pay Norwich the original amount agreed in Lambert’s contract with the Norfolk club, who will pay the former Scotland midfielder his bonus due after the 2011/12 season.
Writing by Peter Rutherford in Singapore; Editing by Ian Ransom