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Premier League

  • March 31, 2012
  • • 15:00
  • • Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Referee: L. Mason
  • • Attendance: 34740
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Aston Villa - Chelsea Preview: Blues have lost their last three away games in the Premier League

Aston Villa - Chelsea Preview: Blues have lost their last three away games in the Premier League

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Roberto Di Matteo needs his side's recent upturn in form to start affecting results on the road, beginning with a rematch against the team who beat the visitors 3-1 in December


PROBABLE LINEUPS

ASTON VILLA

Given
Lichaj, Cuellar, Collins, Warnock
Albrighton, Herd, Gardner, Ireland
Agbonlahor, Heskey

CHELSEA


Cech
Ferreira, Luiz, Terry, Cole
Mikel, Meireles
Ramires, Mata, Kalou
Torres

Aston Villa's already-thin squad has been stretched further by injuries, with Charles N'Zogbia (knee) expected to miss out for the second match in a row. Alan Hutton, too, is unavailable with a calf problem, meaning that American youngster Eric Lichaj is in line for his first start of the season.

Captain Stilyan Petrov will not be involved after he was diagnosed with leukemia on Friday.

Darren Bent's long-term injury make it likely that Emile Heskey will escape Alex McLeish's axe up front despite a poor performance in Villa's 3-0 defeat by Arsenal last time out.

Roberto Di Matteo would surprise nobody by keeping faith with the XI that excelled in Lisbon on Tuesday. The goalscorer in that game, Salomon Kalou, would therefore remain rather than Chelsea turning back to the likes of Daniel Sturridge.

The Blues' only injury of note is that of right-back Branislav Ivanovic, still struggling with a muscle tear, with previously out-of-favour Paulo Ferreira the favourite to make another rare appearance on Saturday.


DID YOU KNOW?
  • Aston Villa have scored just three goals in their last six matches, a streak which includes no instances of two or more in any given match and goes back to February 1.
  • Chelsea have played seven fixtures across all competitions under interim manager Roberto Di Matteo, winning five while drawing and losing only one apiece.
  • Gary Cahill (pictured), a January acquisition for Chelsea, played 30 games for Villa between 2005 and 2008, when he moved to Bolton.
  • The Blues have lost their last three away fixtures in the Premier League - to Everton (2-0), West Brom (1-0) and Manchester City (2-1).
  • The hosts are slow starters, having yet to score in the opening 10 minutes of any of their league matches this season.
  • Chelsea will be aiming to atone for their last meeting with the Villans, who stunned the Stamford Bridge crowd on December 31 with a 3-1 victory.
  • Aside from the injured Darren Bent, Villa's top goalscorer is Gabriel Agbonlahor with six for the season, but the forward has not found the net since the FA Cup clash with League Two outfit Bristol Rovers in January. The last time that Agbonlahor scored against a Premier League club was against Norwich City on November 5.
  • The Blues have only taken all three points on one of their last 12 visits to Villa Park, having drawn seven and lost four of their other matchups in the Midlands.

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Last Five Matches
Odds
Team News
Available Squads
31Shay GivenGoalkeeper
13Stephen WarnockDefender
19James CollinsDefender
43Eric LichajDefender
2Nathan BakerDefender
32Stephen IrelandMidfielder
46Barry BannanMidfielder
17Chris HerdMidfielder
22Gary GardnerMidfielder
11Gabriel AgbonlahorStriker
10Andreas WeimannStriker
1Bradley GuzanGoalkeeper
-Derrick WilliamsDefender
12Marc AlbrightonMidfielder
36Daniel JohnsonMidfielder
40Samir CarruthersMidfielder
-Jack GrealishMidfielder
-Emile HeskeyStriker
1Petr CechGoalkeeper
2Branislav IvanovicDefender
3Ashley ColeDefender
23David LuizDefender
26John TerryDefender
8Frank LampardMidfielder
12John Obi MikelMidfielder
9Fernando TorresStriker
8Juan MataStriker
8Salomon KalouStriker
15Daniel SturridgeStriker
21Ross TurnbullGoalkeeper
3José BosingwaDefender
24Gary CahillDefender
23Ryan BertrandDefender
-Michael EssienMidfielder
15Florent MaloudaMidfielder
14Raúl MeirelesMidfielder
7RamiresMidfielder
Players to Watch
Gary Gardner
Gary Gardner
Position: Midfielder
Squad Number: 22
Games Goals YC RC
0 0 0 0
The probable absence of captain Stilyan Petrov is a monumental blow for Villa boss Alex McLeish not only in terms of leadership - it leaves him with very little experience in the centre of midfield, and 19-year-old Gardner will need to play like a much older man if the hosts are to avoid another humbling of the kind experienced last time out against Arsenal. It could be a chance for the Solihull-born youngster to make a name for himself if he can produce a performance of a high enough quality to frustrate the expensive Blues engine room.
Paulo Ferreira
Paulo Ferreira
Position: Defender
Squad Number: 20
Games Goals YC RC
0 0 0 0
The depleted home side look outmatched on paper but may target the probable inclusion of Ferreira at right-back as their best chance to snatch an unlikely goal. He made a successful return against Benfica, but the Portuguese was enjoying his first appearance in the Blues' first team since, coincidentally (or maybe not), their 3-1 defeat at the hands of McLeish's men in December. The defender had been omitted for a reason and Stephen Ireland, the most creative Villa man not on the treatment table, might profit from targeting him on the flank.
Prediction
Aston Villa have already lacked quality this season but now they lack numbers too, and it is very difficult to envisage their skeleton squad pulling off a second upset against the Blues of the season. They may defend determinedly for some time, but if Chelsea score once - and, with the likes of Fernando Torres seeming to be recovering rapidly in form, that seems more than likely - then the floodgates could open and it should really be a question of 'how many?' for the visitors.
Editor's Prediction

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