Aston Villa v Chelsea

It’s nigh-on seven years since we last won a Premiership match at Villa Park, 3-0 on the 21st March 1999 to be precise. Tore Andre Flo was on the scoresheet twice that night, Bjarne Goldbaek got the third. There have been four Villa wins and two draws since, including last season’s somewhat controversial nil-nil.

Eidur Gudjohnsen and Ricardo Carvalho return to the squad after missing last weekend’s FA Cup tie against Everton because of illness and suspension respectively. Jose Mourinho is reported to have told Carvalho that he would not have been picked for the Everton match even if he was available because of his disappointing showing against Charlton ten days ago. Another example of Mourinho’s tough man management policy.

Paulo Ferreira and Carlton Cole are out injured. Ferreira suffered a thigh muscle injury during training last week, while Cole strained a groin muscle late in the match at Goodison. Michael Essien is reported to be fully fit but won’t be risked, while Didier Drogba and Geremi are still away at the African Cup of Nations (their respective countries, Ivory Coast and Cameroon, play each other in Saturday’s quarter-final). Carlo Cudicini hasn’t travelled because of illness; Lenny Pidgeley replaces him on the bench.

Prediction: A classy performance over ninety minutes and a comfortable three points? Or a now familiar slow start, storming second half and another draw? After two somewhat disappointing draws against Charlton and Everton, it would be nice to see the former. Saying that, I’d settle for a point tonight and a drubbing of Gissagong FC on Sunday!

It’s difficult to know what to make of Villa. They’ve recorded just three Premiership victories at home all season — against Blackburn, Charlton and Everton — and currently languish in fifteenth place in the table, seven points above the relegation zone. About the only thing going for them is our poor record at Villa Park this century, but that’s unlikely to be enough. 0-1. Mourinho’s fiftieth Premiership win as Chelsea manager, and our fiftieth Premiership goal this season.

Aston Villa 1 – 1 Chelsea · Update

See Robben’s goal here (downloadable zip file).

Match reports: BBC Sport; Sky Sports; ESPNSoccernet; Sporting Life; Official Chelsea FC Website; The Guardian; The Independent; The Times; Daily Telegraph.

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