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Preview: Chelsea v. Aston Villa

"I agree with Arsene (Wenger),'' Ancelotti said. "Mentally, it wasn't good for us to go out of the Champions League.

"But after the victory against Portsmouth, this moment is finished. We have to look at every game. We play Aston Villa and then have a week to prepare for Manchester United.

"That could be an advantage for us. Before, we had midweek games. We are disappointed to be out of the Champions League, but it could be an advantage.''

Time to make that advantage count.


The what: Premier League, round 33 – Chelsea v. Aston Villa
The where: Stamford Bridge (41.841)
The when: March 27, 9pm local time (4pm EST)
The how: ESPN Classic (Dish 143 - which is no longer available in my package on Dish (F*** you, ESPN), DirecTV 208)
The referee: Peter Walton

Seven matches left; only seven wins will do. Villa's trip to Stamford Bridge on Saturday begins a four-match stretch in which we face Manchester United in what likely will be the highlight of the Premier League season, as well as Tottenham at White Hart Lane.  At the end of this span, we shall know whether Chelsea are fit for a title.

Or not.

Aston Villa —
7th (51 points)
Team: 1 Brad Friedel, 22 Brad Guzan, 24 Carlos Cuellar, 25 Stephen Warnock, 29 James Collins, 5 Richard Dunne, 2 Luke Young, 6 Stewart Downing, 8 James Milner, 19 Stiliyan Petrov, 7 Ashley Young, 18 Emile Heskey, 11 Gabriel Agbonlahor, 10 John Carew, 4 Steve Sidwell, 14 Nathan Delfouneso, 12 Marc Albrighton, 17 Moustapha Salifou, 15 Curtis Davies, 47 Ciaran Clark, 23 Habib Beye
Doubtful: Agbonlahor (foot), Dune (Achilles), Heskey (Achilles), Milner (Achilles)
Injured: Delph (ankle), Reo-Coker (ankle), Harewood (foot), Bouma (ankle)
Suspended: None
Leading scorer: Agbonlahor 11 (11 league)

Villa is the only league team undefeated since the turn of the year, though seven of those 10 matches have ended in a draw.

It's hard to gauge Martin O'Neil's side considering we really have no clue what team he will field at the Bridge. Milner, Heskey and Dunne are all questionable with Achilles issues. All - or none - could feature. Agbonlahor's foot is not heeled, but you would expect him to make a return in a match of this caliber. John Carew is the only individual definite; the big Norwegian has scored eight goals in seven games.

The other definite? Villa will make it difficult for us, no doubt.

Position: 2 (68 points)
League Form: LWWLDW
Team: Cech, Hilario, Turnbull, Kalou, Alex, Drogba, Malouda, Terry, Borini, Lampard, Mikel, Deco, Anelka, Zhirkov, J Cole, Belletti, Ballack, Kakuta, Sturridge, Ferreira, Bruma, Van Aanholt
Doubtful: Hilario (groin), Ballack (Achilles)
Injured: Essien (knee), A Cole (ankle), Bosingwa (knee), Ivanovic (knee), Carvalho (ankle)
Suspended: None
Leading scorer: Drogba 30 (24 league)

Not really much to say. You can rest assured Ancelotti will bring Ballack and Anelka back into the squad. If he does, the formation below is the way to go.

Our recent history against the Villains has not been peachy; remember that 4-4 event on Boxing Day '07 featuring an in-form Sheva? This season's reverse fixture was a downer, too. We can take some solace, however, in the fact that Villa has not won at Stamford Bridge since 2002.

The rest, as they say, is up to the players. Time for Super Frank & Co. to rev this machine into high gear, and erase all in its path. KTBFFH

Probable XI

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