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Match Preview : Aston Villa v Chelsea


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Villa take on Chelsea in what is by far our biggest game of the season so far. The outcome of this game could colour the entire remainder of the season for both teams. Let's take a look at what is at stake and how both teams will be motivated.

Venue: Villa Park

Kick-off: 12:45

Referee: Mark Halsey

Villa go into tomorrow's game 3rd in the league, 2 points ahead of Chelsea and a 'massive' 7 points clear of Arsenal in 5th.

This Villa team are getting used to playing big high pressure games this season. They've been in the top 4 now for long enough to be used to the expectations put on them by the manager, the fans and by their own team-mates. This tie is a bit different though. In Chelsea, we are playing the one team who have comprehensively played us off the park this season. Martin O'Neill came out and said this only a few days ago. To their (and our) credit they are the one team who have managed it. At Stamford Bridge we were thoroughly outplayed and their own fans say this was probably their best performance of the season. Let's hope their performance was just as much a one-off as ours was that day and that it wasn't an indication that our style of play is very much set up to complement theirs...

Since then, Chelsea have had injuries, a big loss of form and no shortage of turmoil. They've lost a manager and shifted their team around from game to game. So while they are a squad riddled with class and ability, their first team is not nearly as settled as they would like it to be.

The prize at the end of this game is simple.

For Villa, a win puts us 5pts clear of Chelsea. It puts Chelsea back into the clutches of Arsenal and it keeps Arsenal at least 7pts behind us for yet another week. It puts the final nail in Chelsea's title ambitions and depending on other results it keeps our own title chances, however unlikely they may be, on track for another week. If Arsenal were to unthinkably come a cropper then we'd have a very significant 10pt gap over them.

For Chelsea, a win puts them back into 3rd place a point ahead of us. The assumed Arsenal win would then put us potentially a mere 4pts ahead of them and right back into the thick of a ferocious Champions League tussle with 'the establishment' and things all of a sudden seem a lot less comfortable.

So a defeat, from both sides' point of view, is not something worth contemplating.

A draw would be more acceptable to us than for them. It would keep us 3rd in the league, it would keep our gap to Arsenal to at least 5pts and it would pretty much be status quo, save for having one less game left on the schedule - which is not to be sniffed at.

So to put it simply, whatever we do, we must not lose this game.

As for our prospects in the game. We have just come from using a full strength team except for Milner & Friedel against CSKA Moscow on Wednesday. Heskey is battling to be fit and I would expect to see Milner back in place of Gardner on the right. Whether Shorey is retained or whether Luke reverts to LB with Gardner going to RB we'll see on the day. Up front it depends on which of our big men is closer to 100% as to who will partner Gabby. We played very well against CSKA in my opinion. We kept the ball better than we have of late and with no new injuries I hope we can bring that form into the Chelsea game. There's no reason why not.

Though the general concensus amongst the forum contributors is that we will need to be more effective with any chances we get than we have been of late. Profligacy has cost us points and there is the chance (though not guaranteed) that opportunities might be few and far between against Chelsea if they turn up on the day. So any sniff must be dispatched ruthlessly.

Chelsea, for their part, will be fired up to impress their new manager. I would have much preferred to see Scolari in charge for this one with the same disinterested Chelsea team plodding around the pitch like they have of late (how Hull didn't beat them I don't know). Instead, we will get a team fighting to retain their place each as one of Hiddink's regulars. They are a team who know they are very much in the last chance saloon now. This was no more evident than in their game against Watford recently where, upon going behind, they seemed to realise the gravity of it and promptly 'decided' to effortlesly stomp on the upstarts. Yes it was only Watford but it looked like Chelsea finally realised their season was about to implode and that it might actually reflect badly on them as individuals if they let it happen (pride eh?). We will also get a team who, like ourselves, have been much better away from home than at home this season (which brings into stark focus just how weird the manner of the result in Stamford Bridge was).

There are 2 Chelseas. There is the swashbuckling one that started the season and there is the one we've watched since the turn of the year. Unfortunately the introduction of a new manager has muddied the waters of exactly which one is going to turn up.

But I think irrespective of that, we know which Villa must turn up. We can not dictate what they do, only what we do. We must turn up ready to do the business. We must turn up with the right attitude and belief. A positive attitude. We must go at them 100% from the off and give them no time to breath. We must unsettle them as soon as possible with our high energy game. We've shown we are afraid of no-one this season and the likes of Ashley, Stiliyan and Gabby know that this game is no different to the ones against Arsenal or Man Utd or Liverpool. We've been there before and if we intend to be there again we can not freeze in these massive games. And this is a massive game.

I am confident that we have the capability to get a result here if we apply ourselves in the right way. Any of our big guns on their day can win us a match. But I am also wary that if we do not apply ourselves, Chelsea have the ability to hand us our backsides on a platter in the manner they did at their place.

This one really is on a knife edge and I wouldn't put a cent of my hard-earned on the outcome with any real conviction.

COME ON VILLA. Show 'em what you're made of. Send them home with their tails between their legs wondering what the hell hit them.

Lets march onwards towards CL qualification and, who knows, maybe more?

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Nice article, a lot better than Paul parkers on Eurosport (but that`s not too difficult I suppose).

Yes tis is a big clash, and I`m really looking forward to it, as are all of us I would expect. But I`m not too worried if we don`t win it, as it really is typical of Villa to do all the buildup, and then get a letdown when it comes down to the most important moment.

Something we have been doing for so many years. Still, I love villa, and I really am looking forward to this.

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We played very well against CSKA in my opinion. We kept the ball better than we have of late and with no new injuries I hope we can bring that form into the Chelsea game. There's no reason why not.

Hi BOF. Loved the article, which was full of detail, but disagreed to a certain extent with your above comment. I thought our first half performance against CSKA was poor and ridled with misplaced passes! Even though we played much better in the second half of that game, i do hope that, it is the second half performance that is repeated against Chelsea, rather than the first?

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