After a big weekend which saw Manchester United finally win a Premier League game, the pressure is back on, meaning it is time for us to stop coasting and start extending our lead at the top of the table. What better place to do it than Villa Park, which has recently become one of our bogey grounds. With no win since 1999, Sunday’s game is a chance to finally come out of Villa Park with something to cheer about, and perhaps prove our credentials early on.
Aston Villa are still cheering themselves though, a 5-0 win in midweek-albeit against Wrexham in the League Cup-has boosted the club after a patchy start to their league season, and the last-gasp transfers of Zat Knight and the highly acclaimed Curtis Davies have shored up Martin O’Neill’s shaky backline. Speedy winger Ashley Young is also celebrating an England call-up so all eyes will be on him, particularly Steve McLaren‘s! Goalkeeper Thomas Sorenson is still on the sidelines which will mean that the on-loan Scott Carson will continue between the sticks.
Chelsea however have been rocked by a thigh injury to Frank Lampard which rules him out of the trip to Birmingham. Details on the injury are scarce at the moment; however it is bad news for my fantasy football team – Celery, who will miss him greatly. I know how you feel José! Lampard is joined on the sidelines by long-term injury victim Wayne Bridge, and there are question marks over the fitness of Ricardo Carvalho, Andriy Shevchenko and Michael Ballack. Glen Johnson has been snuck out of the back door to Portsmouth so Juliano Belletti could be in line for a first start. I am writing this before the transfer window slams shut so I’m still waiting for multi-million pound deals to go through involving Ronaldinho, Ricardo Quaresma, Pelé, Diego Maradona, Ferenc Puskas etc. But I won’t be holding my breath.
Villa are often a team who will give us a game rather than stick every man behind the ball and defend for their lives so this game should be no different. With Martin O’Neill’s side on a nine-game unbeaten run against us at Villa Park and chairman Randy Lerner expecting results after his big financial outlay, this is a potential banana skin. Lampard’s injury is a huge blow but Steve Sidwell could get a chance to step up. If he performs well we could be saying, “Frank who?”
Or perhaps not. One thing we know for certain however it that this will be a big test and we are going to have to show our undoubted class to get anything out of Villa. They will not roll over and we could see edge-of-the-seat stuff at Villa Park. If you’re going along, you may need to bring your lucky rabbit’s feet, four-leafed clovers and horseshoes. Then again, a stick of celery usually suffices. Come on Chels!
Prediction: The head says draw but the heart says win, and I’m sure no-one on this site wants to hear anything but an optimistic view. Therefore, a 1-0 away win is my shout this time, and the Villa Park hoodoo is finally broken. Hopefully!