Villa Park, West Midlands
Saturday 7th Feb, 2015, 15:00 GMT
Aston Villa have had a nightmarish start to 2015, having not scored a single goal in all of their Premier League games this year. If Arsenal last week was just the sort of blow-hot-blow-cold Top 4 side they could have fancied their chances against, it certainly didn’t show in the result. There was no coming of age moment for Lambert’s Aston Villa side, as they crashed to a 5-0 mauling to an Arsenal side that finally looked like it would make a claim to a Champions League side.
Things don’t look any easier this week for Aston Villa, with Chelsea next on the list. The Blues didn’t have the brightest of starts to the new year, but they’ve clawed their way back to a 5-point lead over their nearest rivals, after a reasonably tough run of fixtures. With the 1-1 draw with City suiting their current needs just fine, the Blues will be looking to put even more distance between them and the rest of the pack.
The viral video of a young Aston Villa fan pleading with Mourinho to coach Aston Villa, with Diego Costa in tow, is unlikely to convince the Portuguese genius to go easy on Lambert’s men.
Team News and Tactics
Aston Villa are hoping to put some space between them and the relegation zone, with just a four-point gulf keeping them from the drop zone. At 22 points, the Villans will need some Christian Benteke magic up front. The striker, who was once rumored to be Chelsea’s radar, has been relatively quiet post-injury but will eagerly await the opportunity to put the hurt on the visitors.
Expect Lambert to instruct Benteke to run at Chelsea’s young Kurt Zouma, in a bid to force an error. Zouma has impressed thus far, but the law of averages might portend an error that’s overdue. With Aston Villa failing to set the score-sheet alight, they will have to contend with a John Terry most in his element when dealing with a beleaguered offense.
Weimann and Bacuna will have their task cut out for them having to deal with an irrepressible Eden Hazard, and Lambert will also need to set Bacuna up to track back and assist them in subduing the Belgian. It’s unclear as to what the level of stress Sinclair and Clark will have to endure, considering Willian’s energetic running does not make up for his lack of finishing and Cuadrado is an untested proposition in the Premier League. Aston Villa may yet get off easy on their left flank.
Predicted Line Up: Guzan; Cissokho, Clark, Okore, Hutton; Sinclair, Delph, Sanchez, Bacuna; Benteke, Weimann
The Blues are likely to be hampered by the absence of their front man Diego Costa, who will be serving the second of his three match ban. Loic Remy will be expected to stand in the Spaniard’s stead, and make way for Didier Drogba late into the second half. If Juan Cuadrado plays, he may come on as a second half substitute for Willian who is likely to see his influence and role in the club diminish over the remainder of the season.
Fabregas’ return in the middle of the field will be good news for Chelsea, considering the Blues lacked his incisive pairing with Nemanja Matic. Ivanovic has not been his reliable self recently, and Weimann and Benteke could make life hard for the Serbian. Oscar has redeemed himself in the attacking midfield position, and will warrant another run out on the field.
Mourinho might do well to give Cuadrado the start if only to unsettle Aston Villa even further. Chelsea’s attacking threat this season has primarily materialized on the left, and in the center of the field, through Costa and Hazard. The nimble-footed Cuadrado coming at Villa’s back line, might just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Predicted Line Up: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Terry, Zouma, Ivanovic; Fabregas, Matic; Hazard, Oscar, Cuadrado; Remy
- Chelsea have never beaten Aston Villa at Villa Park under Mourinho, losing in 2007 and 2014, and drawing the others
- Chelsea have won every away game this season in which they have scored in the first 20 minutes.
- Aston Villa have only won 2 of the past 10 encounters with Chelsea, while the Blue have won 6 times
- Paul Lambert will be leading his side in his 100th game in charge
The battle of wits in the game that observers will most need to look out for will be Matic and Delph. Aston Villa’s former player of the season re-signing for the side, was one of the few bright spots in a tormented season. Chelsea’s overall strength should see the Blues eventually win this tie, but it will not be the walk in the Aston Villa park that many are expecting.
Predicted Score: Aston Villa 0-2 Chelsea