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FA Cup Preview: Chelsea v. Aston Villa

12 September 1989: Liverpool 9-0 Crystal Palace
8 April 1990: Crystal Palace 4-3 Liverpool

That is all you need to know. This Saturday's FA Cup semifinal between the holders, Chelsea, and Aston Villa is unlikely to resemble last month's 7-1 league thrashing. Far from it, in fact. I would love to be wrong, of course, but I seriously doubt that will be the case.

As Palace demonstrated, one result certainly does not translate when two sides meet again. Rarely, in fact, do they ever play out the same. Villa will be out to tax, stick-up kids style.

Ancelotti knows it. Lampard knows it. The whole of CFC knows it - including Brave John Terry.

"The one thing that all us players have got to get out of our systems is the recent result against Villa," Terry told Chelsea’s official website. "Before we beat Manchester United last weekend we talked about how determined we were not to let them do again what they did to us last time we went to Old Trafford, and it's 100 per cent certain that will be Martin O'Neill's approach.

"It is going to be a totally different game." 

Seven more? Yes please.

The what: FA Cup semifinal – Chelsea v. Aston Villa
The where: Wembley Stadium (90,000)
The when: April 10, 5pm local time (12pm EST)
The how: Fox Soccer Channel (Dish 149, DirecTV 619)
The referee: Howard Webb

Aston Villa —
Position: 7th (54 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: Dunne (achilles), Milner (achilles)
Injured: Reo-Coker (ankle), Harewood (foot), Bouma (ankle)
Suspended: None
Leading scorer: Agbonlahor, Carew 14

What is up with Martin O'Neill? Dude's name was all over the nets this week; first, he was bailing (likely a hoax of blogosphere proportions) and now he won't commit his future to the Villa. Dude is on some other s***.

Anyway. What can we expect from those dirty boys from the Midlands? A whole lot of pace. If they are going to get at us, it's going to be up front with Gabby, Young and Downing running at our limited, at least speed-wise, back four. Villa has to offer more this time around, right?

From what I'm reading around the Villa support web communities, they're torn between running a 4-4-2 or a 4-5-1. I figure we will see something like this in an attempt to quash our midfield, which ran amuck in the last meeting.

Projected XI

Position: 1 (74 points)
League Form: WWWDLW
Team: Cech, Hilario, Turnbull, Kalou, Alex, Drogba, Malouda, Terry, Borini, Lampard, Mikel, Deco, Anelka, Zhirkov, J Cole, Belletti, Ballack, Kakuta, Sturridge, Ferreira, Ivanovic, Bruma, Van Aanholt
Doubtful: Hilário (groin), Ivanovic (knee)
Injured: Essien (knee), A Cole (ankle), Bosingwa (knee), Carvalho (ankle)
Suspended: None
Leading scorer: Drogba 31 (25 league)

Chelsea has never done the domestic double. No better time than now.

A Premier League match on Tuesday against Bolton does us no favors, particularly with this side's hatred of midweek games. How Ancelotti manages his players is of the utmost importance.

We already know Drogba is starting - for real this time. Who will join him? The Deco/Ballack conundrum weighs heavily as does our situation at fullback. Regardless, I expect us to give the FA Cup the respect it deserves and field what is at least close to our strongest eleven at the moment.

Projected XI
J. Cole-Drogba-Malouda

Potent Potables
• This is only the third time in 60 years that Aston Villa have reached the FA Cup semi-finals
• Chelsea have lost one of their last 13 meetings with Villa in all competitions
• Villa have kept one clean sheet in their last 14 FA Cup matches
• Chelsea have scored at least twice in each of their last 10 FA Cup outings while Villa have averaged three goals a game in this season's competition

Wild card
The pitch. This will be its first real test since being relaid a month ago, the 10th time done so at Wembley.

Considering its brief but checkered history, it will be interesting to see how the pitch holds up. Hopefully well.

Speaking of Wembley, I must, once again, express my displeasure with the fact that semifinals are being played there. What the hell is that about?

But I digress. KTBFFH

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