What a rollercoaster of a week it has been in the Aston Villa world. After celebrating 3 points against Norwich, fans up and down the country then celebrated a Swansea win at the DW Stadium which has all but secured our Premier League status for next season. Finally, we were given the sad news that our club captain and inspiration Stiliyan Petrov will be retiring from football due to his ongoing battle with acute leukemia. This news will not come as a shock to many but it is still a unfortunate occurrence for Stan as around 18 months ago he was still playing football and being diagnosed with a life- threatening disease was far from his horizon. However, he has fought leukaemia like the lion he was when captaining our team and now that he is in remission he will continue to fight with the help of his family, friends and the footballing world. When he leads the team out for the lap of appreciation tomorrow, it is sure to be an emotional occasion for all who will witness it.
However, on to the game against Chelsea, which for some reason is the only Prem game to take place on Saturday. A win against Rafael Benitez and his boys in blue would 100% guarantee our presence in the Premier League next year. Also, victory tomorrow would go some way to erasing the shameful 8-0 defeat earlier in the season which helped to kick start our sorry spiral towards the bottom ends of the table.
So, what are our chances of recording that important win tomorrow? Well for me, if we are ever going to beat a team like Chelsea then it will be when they have a major cup final a mere 4 days later, which luckily enough for us, they do! Therefore, if we go along those lines then that should also point to Chelsea fielding a weakened team and this could pave the way for Villa to emerge victorious from the last home game of the season.
It is without question that attacking wise we are one of the deadliest teams in the league at the moment and with Benteke, Weimann and Agbonlahor all hitting form then even teams such as Chelsea will be wary come 12:45 on Saturday afternoon. However, the one problem that has been around all season is the defence and even that doesn’t seem like it is going to be getting any better anytime soon. So, for all the betting fans out there, a both teams to score bet should be nailed on!
Aston Villa will subject Matthew Lowton, who suffered a thigh strain against Norwich City last time out, to a late fitness test as he looks to maintain his ever-present record. Karim El Ahmadi (thigh) and Ciaran Clark (foot) will be absent once again, with the pair having sat out Villa’s last two fixtures. Richard Dunne has returned to training with the development squad as he looks to build up his fitness but, having been sidelined since Euro 2012, the Republic of Ireland international is very unlikely to figure this season.
Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard will start at Villa Park as he continues his bid to become the club’s all-time leading goalscorer, interim manager Benitez has confirmed. Eden Hazard (calf) and fellow forward Victor Moses (leg) are doubtful, but midfielder John Obi Mikel (hip) is available again. Ryan Bertrand (knee) is out, but Oriol Romeu is in contention following his long-term absence with a knee problem.
- Chelsea inflicted Aston Villa’s biggest ever Premier League defeat when the two teams met just before Christmas (8-0).
- Fernando Torres last scored in the Premier League in that 8-0 romp when he opened the scoring in the third minute.
- Christian Benteke has scored 13 Premier League goals in 2013, more than any other player.
Aston Villa 2-2 Chelsea (First Scorer; Demba Ba)
I expect this to be an open game in which both teams will go all out to secure the 3 points with lots of goals, lots of chances and lots of entertainment for all to behold.