Villa Park, Birmingham

May 11, 2013; 12:35 GMT


Seldom comes a match the outcome of which can decide the fate of two teams at opposite ends of the spectrum. When Chelsea travel to Villa Park to take on Aston Villa, a win for the Blues will secure their place in next season’s Champions League, while a victory for Villa will ensure that they remain in the Premier League.

Chelsea are 3 points ahead of Tottenham and 2 ahead of Arsenal, after their 2-2 draw against the Lily Whites at Stamford Bridge. One win in their last two games will take them six points ahead of Spurs and even if Andre Villas-Boas’ team wins their remaining two fixtures, Chelsea’s much superior goal difference will ensure that they finish ahead of their North London rivals in fourth place. Moreover, the Blues will not want to leave anything for their last game at home against Everton and let David Moyes’ emotional departure jeopardize their mission in any way.

Aston Villa, on the other hand, have somewhat picked up their form of late with two back-to-back wins against Sunderland and Aston Villa, thereby reaching 40 points. If Wigan fails to defeat Arsenal this weekend, it should be enough for Villa but Stiliyan Petrov announcing his retirement and this being the last home game for them, Aston Villa would like to finish on a high and ensure their survival on their own terms.

Team News and Tactical Brief

Aston Villa

For Aston Villa, Chris Herd, Richard Dunne and Marc Albrighton remain sidelined for this fixture against Chelsea. Matthew Lowton had picked up a slight knock against Norwich, but is expected to recover in time for the kick-off, while El Ahmadi and Ciaran Clark should both be available for selection. Gary Gardner is also close to recovering and may see some game-time before end of season.

In a 4-3-3 formation, Guzan will take his position in goal, with Baker and Vlaar marshaling the centre of defence. Bennet is set to continue at left-back despite a poor game against Norwich, while Lowton is expected to shake of his injury to start at right-back. The midfield three is set to comprise of Delph, Westwood and Sylla and in what can be termed as a potent attack force, Gabby Agbonlahor, Benteke and Weimann are poised to start.

Agbonlahor scored both the goals in Villa’s win over Norwich and his speed and power can cause Chelsea a few problems, if the defence isn’t focused enough, while Benteke, who has scored 18 goals this season, remains a treat. Aston Villa is good on the counter, and their central midfield has been performing decently of late. However, defence remains a concern, especially if you think of the firepower that Chelsea are set to unleash at Villa Park.

Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Guzan; Lowton, Baker, Vlaar, Bennet; Delph, Westwood, Sylla; Agbonlahor, Benteke, Weimann


Oriol Romeu is back in training but this game may come too soon for him to make an appearance, while Ryan Bertrand remains sidelined. Eden Hazard picked up a slight injury in the draw against Spurs but considering how his absence affects the Chelsea attack, Benitez may be tempted to field him, even if he’s 90% fit. With the Europa League final in midfield, Fernando Torres may be rested for this encounter, while John Terry and Frank Lampard are set to be recalled to the starting line-up.

Rafa will continue with the 4-2-3-1 system, with Cech between the posts. The back-line is expected to comprise of Ivanovic at right-back, giving Azpilicueta a rest, Terry and Luiz in Defence, and Cole at left-back. Frank Lampard and Ramires may be preferred in midfield, with Hazard, Mata and Oscar taking their place behind Demba Ba. Victor Moses can also start in place of Hazard in case his injury is a bit more serious than expected.

Against Tottenham, the front four of Torres, Hazard, Mata and Oscar were in sublime form, with the three attacking midfielders especially creating havoc for the Spurs’ defence; they interchanged position, drew defenders out of place, and fed each other with alarming regularity and Rafa will hope that his attack can continue from where it’d left off in midweek and the defence can hold fort to give his team the all-importance victory.

Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Terry, Luiz, Cole; Ramires, Lampard; Hazard, Mata, Oscar; Ba

Key Facts

  1. Chelsea have won two of their last four Premier League trips to Villa Park, losing once and drawing the other game.
  2. Aston Villa have won just three of their last 11 home matches in the Premier League, losing six.
  3. Chelsea inflicted Aston Villa’s biggest ever Premier League defeat when the two teams met just before Christmas (8-0).
  4. Fernando Torres last scored in the Premier League in that 8-0 romp when he opened the scoring in the third minute.
  5. A win in this game will seal a top four finish for Chelsea.
  6. A win in this game for the home team will ensure Villa are safe from relegation.
Statistics courtesy Opta and Yahoo.

Player To Watch Out For

Frank Lampard (Chelsea)

Frank Lampard is merely two goals short of Sir Bobby Tambling’s all-time record of 202 goals for Chelsea and with Rafa resting him quite regularly and his long term future at the club still uncertain, Frank has very little time on his hands. He is expected to be benched for the Europa League final against Benfica, in favor of Luiz and Ramires, and thus he has this game and then the last game against Everton to get the job done. It will be a shame to see Frank leave, if it comes to that, without his name at the top of the chart and the Chelsea legend will do everything in his capacity to score these two goals.


Aston Villa 2-3 Chelsea

There’s too much at stake for both teams for this to be a dull affair, but ultimately, Chelsea’s overall quality and Frank Lampard’s desire to claim the all-time record may prove too much for Villa to cope with at home.

Blast From The Past