On March 15th, Chelsea travel to Villa Park to take on Aston Villa. Both teams are in desperate need of points but for different reasons. Villa have created a small six point gap between themselves and the relegation zone, but Villa would love to grab three points and move closer to that 40 point mark. Chelsea need to win every game as they are title leaders in a very close race. This is the stage of the season where teams start to get truly desperate and the games have a great intensity to them.
Compared to most teams at this stage of the season, neither Chelsea nor Villa are dealing with a lot of injuries. Chelsea will be without Ashley Cole, Fernando Torres, and Marco Van Ginkel. David Luiz will have a late fitness test, but will likely start on the bench even if he passes as fit.
Villa have three long term casualties: Charles N’Zogbia, Libor Kozak and Jores Okore.
Villa are one of seven teams in the league that have more points away from home than at home. Chelsea have the best defensive record in the Premier League. The team with the best defensive record has only won the league once out of the last four seasons. Since 2007, there have been nine penalties in this fixture, more than any other Premier League fixture. All nine of those penalties have been at Stamford Bridge.
Villa will not get many chances and if they are to get any points from this game they are going to need to take their chances. More than likely, a good percentage of their chances are going to fall to Benteke. Benteke’s chance conversion rate has dropped off slightly from last season, down from 26% to 20%. His biggest drop off has been in clear cut chances, where he has dropped from a 50% conversion rate to 31%. After a long run of poor form, Benteke has picked up again and scored five goals in his last eight games. Benteke is Villa’s star man and his struggles this season have led to Villa struggling. He has picked it up recently leading to some great results for Villa and they will hope for more of that against Chelsea.
Much of Chelsea’s offensive firepower comes from Eden Hazard. They will need him to be on form to beat a resilient Villa side. Hazard has bounced back from an up and down first season in the Premier League to become one of the stars of the division. Hazard has created 79 chances, more chances than any other player in the league. He is creating a chance every 31 minutes, seventh best in the league. Hazard has shown he is a world class player with unlimited talent. If he continues his fantastic form, he will give Chelsea a great chance to win the league.
Chelsea are in a fantastic run of form and will be tough to beat. That said, Villa will try to make themselves tough to beat and try to end Chelsea’s 15 game league unbeaten run. Chelsea have had some trouble on the road with a win percentage of only 50% compared to an win percentage of 87% at Stamford Bridge. While Chelsea are beatable away from home, Villa will have too large a task. I see Chelsea winning comfortably.