Premier League Tactical Preview: Aston Villa v Chelsea



Saturday's early match in the Premier League sees Chelsea travel to Aston Villa. Villa are by no means safe with two games to go, but have eased away from the drop zone in recent weeks. Chelsea, meanwhile, are still involved in the hunt for a top-four finish - their point against Spurs means they just need to win one of their final games to ensure Champions League qualification. They will be looking to follow up on their 8-0 romp of Villa back in December with another imposing display. Chelsea go into the tie as favourites at 1.95 for the win, with Villa outsiders at 3.60.


Probable line-ups

John Terry has missed Chelsea's last two games but could be recalled to help Chelsea deal with the physical presence of Christian Benteke. Frank Lampard might also return in midfield, with Demba Ba coming in for Fernando Torres in attack.


Villa will probably be unchanged from their game against Norwich, a match they won 2-1 thanks to a Gabby Agbonlahor brace. The pacy forward will thus retain his place playing off top scorer Benteke, with Andreas Weimann also in support.


Villa's porous back-line

Whilst Villa have scored plenty of goals this season, their backline has been far too porous. Only three teams have conceded more goals than Aston Villa's 65 this season, equating to 1.8 goals conceded per game. As such it seems almost certain that they will concede against a Chelsea side who are the second-top scorers in the Premier League with 71.

The Villa defence has looked incredibly uncertain at times, with individual errors often proving costly. With Chelsea playing in such a fluid manner one can only expect them to cause Paul Lambert's side problems, as they did in the 8-0 victory at Stamford Bridge at the end of last year. With Villa averaging just 45% possession this season we can expect them to have to do a lot of defending and as they are particularly weak without the ball. Chelsea will likely look to play through danger men such as Eden Hazard and Juan Mata, who Villa will struggle to nullify.


Can Benteke be the difference?

Despite the obvious defensive frailties, Villa do possess a viable threat going forward. Christian Benteke has found the net on 18 occasions in the Premier League - 41% of Villa's total Premier League goal haul. His acquisition has been crucial in helping them stay afloat in the Premier League and his form on Saturday afternoon could be a deciding factor. Benteke plays primarily as a target man with players like Agbonlahor and Wiemann playing off of him.

Benteke has won an average of 8.5 headers per game, which demonstrates the style of play Villa will adopt. When they win the ball they will likely go directly to him, meaning that Chelsea will have to closely marshal the big Belgian. Even if he doesn't win the first header, players such as Agbonlahor will be looking to latch onto loose balls, so Chelsea may go with the aeriel prowess of Terry and Gary Cahill at the back. David Luiz will look to screen the Belgian when he comes deeper to win headers.


Conclusion

Both sides are very close to achieving their ambitions for this season. Villa are very close to survival and could be guaranteed safety even if they lose on Saturday if other results go their way. Chelsea on the other hand need three points to secure a top-four finish and will probably look to make a high-tempo start to the game and bombard what is a very weak Villa defence. Christian Benteke holds the key for Aston Villa with his aerial ability and goalscoring prowess. If Chelsea can shut him off they can nullify Villa's threat.

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