Villa Park, Birmingham
March 15, 2014; 17:30 BST
Aston Villa host league leaders Chelsea FC at Villa Park today, in what is expected to be an action packed encounter. Chelsea, who have been in fantastic run of form and are yet to lose a league game since their defeat against Stoke City back in December, will look to maintain their lead at the top of the table and have a fine opportunity to extend it as well as Liverpool and Arsenal encounter tough fixtures this gameweek.
Aston Villa are coming into this game on the back of a convincing 4-1 win over Norwich City earlier this month as Christian Benteke scored a brace. Villa are currently 11th in the table, six points above relegation zone, but Paul Lambert will know that things can change pretty quickly at the bottom of the table.
Chelsea are also coming into this game on the back of a convincing win as they thrashed Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 at Stamford Bridge. The Blues will also have one eye on the upcoming Champions League fixture against Galatasaray, but can’t take their eye off this game as Villa could prove to be a unpredictable opponent.
The last time Aston Villa defeat Chelsea at Villa Park was back in 2009 when James Collins scored the winner in the second half. But the London club have won four of their last five visits to this stadium and their last clash in this venue in a 1-2 win for the away side with Christian Benteke and Ramires seeing red cards.
Team news and tactics
Paul Lambert doesn’t have any new injury concerns to contain with ahead of this fixture. In fact his have had a long break since playing their last match against Norwich and are expected to be fresh and raring to go against Chelsea.
Libor Kozak, Jores Okore and Charles N’Zogbia continue their spell at the side-lines with injury. Okore is expected to return in another two weeks to first team football and will be in contention for selection for their trip to Old Trafford, but the possible return date of Kozak and N’Zogbia is yet to be known. 24-year-old Australian international Chris Herd, who has made only two appearances so far this season, has recovered from his hamstring injury, but is unavailable for selection due to personal reasons – the club has confirmed. Ryan Bertrand, who joined Aston Villa on loan from Chelsea in the winter transfer window, is ineligible to face his parent club. The left back has performed well since his arrival and could be a big miss for the Villans.
Paul Lambert is expected to make only one change to the side he fielded against Norwich earlier this month. Ryan Bertrand will be replaced by Joe Bennett at left back and this will be only his second start for Aston Villa this season in the league. This is a big opportunity for Bennett to impress and provide Lambert with some selection headaches when Bertrand returns to the side.
Aston Villa are a dangerous side away from home and they possess tremendous threat on counter-attacks, but they are likely to stick to those tactics at home against Chelsea as well. Christian Benteke’s return to form has been a huge boost for them as they have struggled to score goals without the Belgium international. Villa will once again sit deep and allow Chelsea to come at them. They will look to win the ball in the midfield, with Fabian Delph and Ashley Westwood pressing hard, before launching quick counter attacks through Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Wiemann.
Expected starting line-up (4-3-3): Guzan (GK); Bacuna, Vlaar, Baker, Bennett; Ahmadi, Westwood, Delph; Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor
Jose Mourinho doesn’t have any new injury concerns to contain with as they travel to face Aston Villa on Saturday. David Luiz, who last start for the Blues was in the 2-0 loss to Manchester City in the FA Cup, is yet to recover from his groin injury and the defender will also miss out their midweek Champions League clash against Galatasaray. The Brazilian defender does have a chance of returning to first team action ahead of Chelsea’s vital clash against Arsenal next weekend.
Mourinho confirmed the unavailability of David Luiz and Ashley Cole, who picked up an injury in training following his appearance for England in the international friendly against Denmark earlier this month. There are also doubts about the fitness of Fernando Torres ahead of this fixture. The Spaniard was expected to start in the match against Spurs but limped-out during the warm-up ahead of the game. Mourinho revealed that although Torres has recovered well and he is yet to decide on his participation in this game.
The Chelsea boss is likely to have one eye on the upcoming second leg of their European tie against Galatasaray and his team selection could be affected by that. But Mourinho’s priority at the moment is to maintain their lead at the top and it will be important to maintain that balance and not take Aston Villa too lightly. He would look to win the game first and then take his key players off in the second half to provide them with adequate rest.
This means there could be two changes to the side he fielded against Spurs last weekend. Mourinho will switch back to a more conventional 4-2-3-1 formation, instead of the counter-attacking 4-3-3 he started with at Stamford Bridge against Spurs. Nemaja Matic and Ramires will drop back to the pivot, while Oscar will replace Frank Lampard in the middle of the park. Willian, who started on the bench in the last game, will replace Andre Schurrle in attack.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Cech (GK); Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Matic, Ramires; Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Eto’o
- Aston Villa have not won back to back Barclays Premier League home matches since August 2011.
- Chelsea are unbeaten in their last six Barclays Premier League away games, keeping four clean sheets and conceding just two goals (W4 D2).
- Since August 2007 there have been more penalties in Aston Villa v Chelsea games than in any other fixture (9), but they have all come at Stamford Bridge.
- Aston Villa have won just one of the last eight Premier League matches against Chelsea, losing the last four in a row.
- Christian Benteke has scored in two of his three Premier League appearances against Chelsea.
Player to watch-out for
Samuel Eto’o (Chelsea)
The 33-year-old might be past his best, but he still proving to be quite effective for Chelsea in front of goals. The Former Barcelona man didn’t take Mourinho’s recent comments about his age too kindly and his celebrations after his goal against Tottenham was a reply to the Chelsea manager. Of course we would never know whether Mourinho’s intent was to fire up Eto’o with his comments as we head into the final stages of the season. Either way, if Eto’o is out to prove a point on the pitch, then Chelsea would benefit hugely in the title race. He could once again prove to be the difference against Aston Villa today.
Aston Villa 1-3 Chelsea
Expect a fresh Aston Villa side to start brightly in this fixture and even take an early lead. But like their matches against Fulham and Tottenham, Chelsea will come back strongly in the second half and will win the game with a goal to spare.