On Saturday, our beloved Blues travel to Birmingham to visit the haunting ground that is Villa Park. It was just last February when we overturned a 10-year losing streak at the home of the Villans and Ancelotti’s team will face another major challenge to the Italian’s favored diamond formation.
Aston Villa enter the match on good home form, having not lost at Villa Park in their last five matches at home in all competitions. Striker Gabriel Agbonlahor has been on wonderful form with 5 goals this season and will be in good spirits after his good showing for his country in the midweek.
Villa are likely to play a 4-4-2 formation, with Agbonlahor and John Carew up front, attempting to use the natural width of wingers James Milner and Ashley Young. Villa also signed Richard Dunne from Manchester City in an attempt to shore up a back line that is missing Curtis Davies due to injury. Big signing Stewart Downing also has not recovered from last season’s knee injury and is also not likely to feature.
Chelsea’s last match in the league saw us win in convincing fashion over Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. It was a welcome result given our loss at Wigan and our poor showing in Cyprus in the previous matches.
Despite being injured in the midweek, Michael Ballack is available for selection, though John Mikel Obi has not recovered from his ankle injury and is listed as doubtful. Alex, fresh off a new contract signing, is also listed as doubtful with a groin strain, as is Jose Bosingwa with a hamstring injury. Bosingwa still may feature since he played in both World Cup qualifying matches for Portugal over the international break.
Petr Cech also returns from his one-game suspension because of the red card at Wigan two weeks ago.
This match should be an interesting one from a tactical look. Martin O’Neill’s setup uses the natural width of his wingers to cross balls in for Carew and Agbonlahor. It will be important that we defend the cross well, since they should be able to play around the diamond midfield at times.
If there is a weak spot for Villa, it is their back four. Left back Luke Young has recovered from injury but isn’t likely to start. In his place will be Stephen Warnock. The other full back is Carlos Cuellar, a center back by trade, and Villa are still missing Davies to partner Dunne.
I think that back four will have a hard time coping with Drogba and Anelka, and the full backs do lack a bit of pace. Villa have only conceded 6 goals this season, so it will be important to unsettle them to get anything from the match.
Stiliyan Petrov has also traditionally had a difficult time against Lampard and he’ll face him, Deco, and Ballack. If we can win the midfield and expose the back four, we can win this game easily.