Aston Villa - Chelsea Preview: Blues look to replicate 8-0 win to secure top-four finish
With Paul Lambert's men able to ensure survival with three points here, the Villans will be eager to avoid a repeat of December's thrashing at the hands of the Blues
By Sam Wells
Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Bennett
Westwood, Delph, Sylla
Agbonlahor, Benteke, Weimann
Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole
Moses, Mata, Oscar
Paul Lambert looks likely to name the same eleven that triumphed in Aston Villa's all-important 2-1 victory over Norwich as they go in search of a win against the Blues that would guarantee them safety.
Matt Lowton, however, is a doubt after he picked up a thigh injury in last Saturday's win, as he will have to undergo a late fitness test in order to make what would be his 37th consecutive Premier League start.
Marc Albrighton (ankle), Richard Dunne (groin), Gary Gardner (ACL) and Chris Herd (ankle) also remain sidelined with their respective injuries.
Rafa Benitez, meanwhile, will make the changes that the Chelsea support have grown accustomed to, with John Terry, Frank Lampard, Victor Moses and Demba Ba all likely to replace Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres from the side that earned a 2-2 draw against Tottenham on Wednesday.
Chelsea have injury concerns over Ryan Bertrand (knee), Jon Obi Mikel (hand) and Hazard (calf), although Oriol Romeu could recover from a knee injury picked up in December in time to make the squad.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Chelsea have won on two of their last four Premier League trips to Villa Park, dropping points with a draw and a defeat in the other two.
- However, Aston Villa's home record recently has been disappointing; they have won a meagre three times over their last 11 home matches in the league, losing six and drawing two.
- More cause for concern for Paul Lambert's men comes in the fact that Chelsea inflicted Aston Villa’s biggest ever Premier League defeat when the two teams met just before Christmas, cantering to an 8-0 win (incidentally, this was also the last time Fernando Torres scored in the Premier League).
- Christian Benteke (pictured right), in stark contrast to Torres, has had no problem finding the net in the league, scoring 13 Premier League goals since the turn of the year - more than anyone else in 2013.
- Chelsea have scored more headed goals than anyone else in the league this season; Oscar's header against Tottenham was their sixteenth of the campaign.
- The Blues have also scored the opening goal in more league games than any other side in the league, having broken the deadlock a total of 24 times over the course of the season.
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Top 3 Predictions
Aston Villa 0-3 Chelsea FC
- 17.71 %
Aston Villa 1-3 Chelsea FC
- 14.6 %
Aston Villa 0-2 Chelsea FC
- 10.11 %
|Premier League (EPL)||21 Aug 2013||Chelsea FC 2 - Aston Villa 1|
|Premier League (EPL)||11 May 2013||Aston Villa 1 - Chelsea FC 2|
|Premier League (EPL)||23 Dec 2012||Chelsea FC 8 - Aston Villa 0|
|Premier League (EPL)||31 Mar 2012||Aston Villa 2 - Chelsea FC 4|
|Premier League (EPL)||31 Dec 2011||Chelsea FC 1 - Aston Villa 3|
|2 Mar 2014||Aston Villa 4 - Norwich City 1||EPL|
|23 Feb 2014||Newcastle United 1 - Aston Villa 0||EPL|
|11 Feb 2014||Cardiff City 0 - Aston Villa 0||EPL|
|8 Feb 2014||Aston Villa 0 - West Ham 2||EPL|
|1 Feb 2014||Everton 2 - Aston Villa 1||EPL|
|21||Jordan Nathaniel Bowery||Striker|
Some may argue, perhaps justifiably, that the 26-year-old has struggled to fulfill the potential he showed when he first burst onto the scene; indeed, it it almost difficult to remember the excitement he generated given the erratic nature of his performances in recent seasons. He's slowly making people remember with his recent form, however, as he has scored six goals in his last seven league games, linking up with Benteke well and driving Villa to safety. If they are to finish the job in this game, his contribution will be vital.
Another man on form, the Brazilian has recently shown a newly-found eye for goal; with his strike against Tottenham on Wednesday, he has now scored three in his last four Premier League appearances after bagging a solitary goal from his opening 29. If given the opportunity to start here, the midfielder will be eager to continue his rich vein of form as he looks to round off what has been, on the whole, an impressive first season in the Premier League.
The stakes are high as a loss for either side could define their season, although, looking at it from a different perspective, a win would also be decisive - a victory for the home side would ensure Premier League football next season while three points for the away team would secure them a top-four finish. The latter is probably the more likely as, despite Aston Villa's good form, it is difficult to see past a victory for a Chelsea side unbeaten in their last seven in all competitions.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed