Aston Villa - Chelsea Preview: Blues Facing Defensive Crisis As John Terry Injury Could Leave Club With One Fit Centre-Back

European Battle Alive And Well

Aston Villa were expected to challenge for a place in the Europa League again this season following three successive sixth-placed finishes. Martin O’Neill’s departure - and a 6-0 hammering away at Newcastle United - threw into doubt whether they would be able to maintain their league position. However, they now lie eighth in the table and, with Everton and Liverpool both struggling this season, could be set for another European challenge.

Chelsea, meanwhile, have had one of the best starts ever to a Premier League season. Carlo Ancelotti’s men have won six out of their first seven games, scoring 23 goals and conceding just twice in the process. Even a defeat to Villa would still see the Blues top the table due to their four point lead over their nearest challengers, second-placed Manchester City.

Deja Vu?

Chelsea arrived at Villa Park in mid-October last season after a blistering start in the Premier League, having lost only once and having just beat one of the ‘big four’, Liverpool, 2-0 at home. While the statistics are remarkably similar, few would expect the Blues to lose on this occasion.

Ancelotti’s side - one of the biggest, strongest, most physical teams in the top flight - were surprisingly undone by two set-pieces at Villa Park last season, losing 2-1 courtesy of goals from centre-backs James Collins and Richard Dunne. However, later in the campaign Chelsea were to get their revenge, battering Villa 7-0 at Stamford Bridge in the league and 3-0 at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final.


Aston Villa

The hosts have problems in attack as Emile Heskey remains doubtful after picking up calf and shin injuries against Tottenham, while Gabriel Agbonlahor is still recovering from groin surgery, so John Carew may start.

Gerard Houllier faces a selection dilemma in defence due to Carlos Cuellar’s form this season but looks likely to continue with James Collins alongside Richard Dunne.

Young duo Fabian Delph (knee) and Andreas Weimann (foot) remain long-term absentees.

Probable starting XI: Friedel; L Young, Collins, Dunne, Warnock; Albrighton, Reo-Coker, Petrov, Downing; A Young; Carew.


Uncertainty remains over the fitness of John Terry (back) and Frank Lampard (groin). The duo missed England’s Euro 2012 qualifier with Montenegro but could return at Villa Park.

Should Terry miss out, the Blues will be short of cover in defence. Alex won’t return until the end of the month with hip and thigh problems, Jose Bosingwa is unlikely to be rushed back after a year out with a knee injury and youngster Jeffrey Bruma is struggling with a hamstring problem.

Meanwhile, the Blues were struck another blow this week as summer signing Yossi Benayoun was ruled out until April with an Achilles injury.

Probable starting XI: Cech; Ferreira, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Essien, Mikel, Ramires; Anelka, Drogba, Malouda.

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