Aston Villa will travel to Stamford Bridge this weekend to face Chelsea in a fixture that could well be a precursor of this years Capital One Cup Final.
Both teams steered clear of each other in this weeks semi-final cup draw following Chelsea’s morale boosting victory at Elland Road days after the disappointing loss to Corinthians in the club World Cup final.
Meanwhile Villa come into the tie off the back of a 3-1 demolition of Liverpool at Anfield making it six games unbeaten. A run of form that has seen them climb to 14th in the Premier League suggesting Paul Lambert’s young side are finally starting to gel after a slow start to the season at Villa Park.
The records won’t make easy reading for Lambert’s Lions having only beat a Rafael Benitez side once in twelve meetings (W1, D4, L7) and Villa have won just one of their last ten Premier League games at Stamford Bridge losing on six occasions.
Villa fans will however take heart from the fact their last trip down ended in a 3-1 win for their team despite the fact the clubs heaviest ever Premier League defeat came in this exact fixture losing 7-1 back in March 2012.
If you consider all competitions things seem a lot closer between the two sides with Chelsea winning four and Villa winning three.
Chelsea will more than likely welcome back Gary Cahill from suspension while John Terry (knee) and Danial Sturridge (hamstring) look set to remain on the sidelines. John Obi Mikel remains suspended.
Despite Darren Bents recent return to the fold he looks set to sit out this weekend with hamstring problems whilst Gabriel Agbonlahor looks set to return following a knock. It’s bad news for Villa defensively with Richard Dunne (groin), Ron Vlaar (calf) and Gary Gardner (knee) all set to stay in Birmingham.
Ones to Watch
Christian Benteke is the obvious choice after an outstanding performance at Anfield last weekend. The 22-year-old Belgium International, who signed from Genk in August inspired the 3-1 win scoring two and assisting the other taking his tally to eight this season.
However Andreas Weimann has also impressed this season and is in fine form having scored five goals in his last six appearances for Villa.
Meanwhile Chelsea are spoilt for choice in the attacking department Juan Mata is in fine form for the Blues having scored in four of his last five run outs for Chelsea in all competitions. Eden Hazard is another player Villa’s young defence will have to watch, Bentekes Belgium team mate has assissted 22 goals this season more than any other player in the top five European leagues.
Despite their impressive start to the season Chelsea inconsistency will give an in-form Villa side hope of snatching something this weekend. The Club World Cup final was a classic example of Chelsea’s inability to convert chances meanwhile their opponents have strikers in fine form, in fact 73% of their goals this season have come from their strikers.
Villa fans have come to accept that their team are in a transition period and this has lifted pressure off of their young team who are beginning to look a much better team of late. Chelsea will be expecting a much harder game than they would have expected a month ago and rightly so.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-2 Aston Villa