At lunchtime on Saturday, Chelsea travel north to Birmingham to face Aston Villa at Villa Park. Villa Park has been the site of a couple memorable occasions for the Blues. In 2010, Chelsea recorded 7-1 thrashing in 2010 that saw John Terry captain the side for his 325th time and Frank Lampard score four goals in the match. At Villa Park three years later in 2013, Lampard would score his 202nd and 203rd goals for Chelsea to take him past Bobby Tambling as Chelsea’s all-time leading goalscorer.
This time, however, excitement levels for this match are quite low, in part because these are two teams whose seasons have almost certainly been decided.
For Chelsea, a recent string of draws has underlined the struggles of this campaign. With just eight matches left to play, the Blues sit 10th in the table on 41 points and with a six-point gap between them and European football.
With not much left to play for and a recent round of international fixtures, manager Guus Hiddink has suggested that he may experiment a bit with the squad. Oscar, Willian, and Bertrand Traore just returned back from international duty on Thursday and will have their fitness assessed prior to the match. Eden Hazard remains unlikely to play due to injury, and Diego Costa will serve the second match of his recently-extended three-match ban.
The big call for Hiddink will be at the striker position. With Costa missing, it’s becoming much more clear that the Blues do not have an adequate replacement for their main striker. Loic Remy has failed to impress in recent weeks, while January loan-signing Alexandre Pato has failed to make a single appearance since joining the club, and Falcao has not featured since October but may be fit to play.
As for Aston Villa, their season is also decided and the club have been preparing recently for an impending relegation. Villa are propping up the table in 20th and are nine points adrift of 19th place, pretty much sealing their fate without a miracle. If Villa are cut adrift, what are their chances of a return to the Premier League? We don’t know, but if you fancy a flutter, why not boost your account with William Hill online promos.
In the last few weeks, Villa have restructured their board room, creating a separate football board from the existing Board of Directors. This past week, Villa parted company with Remi Garde with Eric Black taking over the managerial position until another manager is appointed.
On the pitch, the Villains have had a season to forget underlined by having won just two league matches since the start of 2016. The turmoil on the pitch has now extended to off-the-pitch matters, as well. Gabriel Agbonlahor has been suspended from the team pending an investigation into his off-the-pitch conduct.
A photograph featuring the forward holding a shisha pipe during his holiday in Dubai over the international break has surfaced, so he’s been removed from the squad to prevent a distraction.
It’s hard to tell what sort of match will take place on Saturday given that both sides are in a bit of a holding pattern. Both squads need to be assessed and rebuilt and both are looking for new managers. For the supporters of both clubs, and possibly even one or two players, the season can’t come soon enough, and both clubs will hope for a rejuvenation for next season.