The Blues enter into the new year and will be eagerly looking to overcome their “blues” in the second half of the season. A disputed goal in midweek allowed Chelsea to atleast end the year with a win, after they had won only 2 out of the last 10 matches.
Villa on the other hand, are coming off a mid-week thrashing from Manchester City and would be looking to improve on their woeful record of winning only 2 league games out of the last 13.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Chelsea go into this fixture knowing that anything less than a win would demoralize their morale to an irreparable extent. Their title-defence has already taken a hit and their performance last month does not suggest that this was the same team that scored 100+ goals in their previous campaign. After scraping through against Bolton, Chelsea would look to finally make a statement and re-instate themselves as a serious contender for the title.
All in all, King Carlo has a lot on his hands right now with the transfer window opening at the same time. Serious back-up is required in certain positions of the pitch, mainly in defence where Ancelotti will field Bruma against Villa, with Ivanovic suspended.
Cech had this to say regarding their present scenario – “We are not used to seeing Chelsea play the way we are playing at the moment. The reality is we aren’t doing the right things on the pitch, we are making mistakes and we got punished for the mistakes.” The injured list has the following players on it – John Obi Mikel, Daniel Sturridge,Yury Zhirkov, Alex and Yossi Benayoun.
Once again the onus of holding the fort together will land squarely on John Terry and it remains to be seen how the Chelsea skipper will step up to this challenge. On the scoring front, Didier Drogba’s form has dipped considerably from the start of the season and he would like to get back to his intimidating ways as soon as possible. Clearly, there is huge pressure to perform for both Chelsea and Ancelotti.
Carlo is likely to stick to a 4-3-3 formation. The defence will see the likes of Cole, Terry, Bosingwa and Bruma. Lampard, Essien and Ramires will play in midfield and Drogba, Anelka and Malouda will form the attacking trio.
Probable starting Line-up: Cech(GK), Cole, Terry, Bosingwa, Bruma, Lampard, Ramires, Essien, Anelka, Malouda, Drogba
The last time Villa won away from home was on 26th September against Wolves. Pressure is enormous on Villa manager Gerard Houllier, who claims he has full backing of owner Randy Lerner. The dreaded “R” word will be doing the rounds in the Villa camp as they are only a single point away from the drop-zone.
The good news for them in this encounter would be the return of playmaker Ashley Young and striker Emile Heskey, who collectively have 4 goals and 6 assists so far this season. Both of the players had missed the last game at Villa Park in which they lost 1-2 to Tottenham Hotspur. Luke Young is likely to miss this match with hip and groin injuries.
Houllier may start with a 4-5-1 formation with Agbonlahor being the lone striker upfront. Friedel will be manning the post and the four-man defence will see the likes of Lichaj, Cuellar, Collins and Warnock, while, Albrighton, Reo-Coker, Bannan, Petrov and Downing will try to contain the Chelsea midfield. Heskey and Ashley Young may come on as second half substitutes in case the Blues seem too hot to handle.
Probable starting Line-up: Friedel(GK), Lichaj, Cuellar, Collins, Warnock, Albrighton, Reo-Coker, Bannan, Petrov, Downing, Agbonlahor
1. Villa has conceded 27 goals so far in this league compared to 39, which they had conceeded in the entire last season.
2. Chelsea’s worst losing streak in 11 years ended in their last match against Bolton.
3. The last time the Blues won at home is way back in November 10 against Fulham.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Will the real Didier Drogba please stand up?
Didier Drogba(Chelsea): No one can ignore how important Drogba is for Chelsea. Even though he has not lived up to his last season status as the top goal scorer, he has the entire second half of the season to prove his critics wrong. And if he gets going, Villa defenders will be in for a tough time.
Chelsea 2 – 0 Villa
Chelsea enter this game as clear-cut favourites. Injuries have hampered them this season, but they would be yearning to show the world that the Bolton game was not a one-off result.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST