Who: Aston Villa FC vs. Chelsea FC
What: English Premier League Week 30
Where: Villa Park, Witton, West Midlands, England, United Kingdom
When: Saturday, March 15, 2014
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast Witton
Time: 5:30 p.m. (UK) 1:30 p.m. ET/10:30 a.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports Network, NBC Sports Live Extra (US)
Worldwide Livestreams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
Radio: SiriusXM FC SIRI 94 (Internet 94), TalkSport Radio
Referee: Chris Foy
3-Way Odds: Aston Villa +650, Chelsea -230, Draw +350
Total: Over 2½ -105, Under 2½ -115
Decimal Odds: Aston Villa 7.50, Chelsea 1.43, Draw 4.50
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 1.95, Under 2½ 1.87
Fractional Odds: Aston Villa 13/2, Chelsea 10/23, Draw 7/2
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 20/21, Under 2½ 20/23
Alternate Odds: Chelsea -1½ +135, Aston Villa +1½ -165
Over 1½ -350, Under 1½ +275
Over 3½ +220, Under 3½ -275
First Half: Chelsea -½ -110, Aston Villa +½ -120
Over 1 -120, Under 1 -110
Chelsea -110, Aston Villa +650, Draw +130
Odds to Win Premier League: Chelsea 5/6 (Manchester City 7/4, Liverpool 11/2, Arsenal 20/1, Manchester United 300/1, Tottenham Hotspur 400/1, Everton 750/1)
Source: Bovada (Kahnawake, Canada)
3-Way Odds: Aston Villa +627, Chelsea -187, Draw +333
Total: Over 2½ +104, Under 2½ -114
Source: Pinnacle (Willemstad, Curaçao)
Chelsea looks to keep its unbeaten 2014 season in the English Premier League intact when it travels to the West Midlands and Villa Park on Saturday to face Aston Villa in Week 30 of the now quickly waning 38-week league season.
Yes, ladies and germs, the Ides of March are already upon us, and St. Patrick’s Day (Monday) and the first day of spring (March 20) are coming next week. Premier League play and UEFA Champions League play are finally winding down and simultaneously coming to a wonderful crescendo and the Blues are in the thick of both quests for some fresh silverware. It’s crunch time, baby.
Heading into this highly-anticipated homestretch, first-place Chelsea (20-6-3) takes an unbeaten 9-2-0 mark (21 goals for, 3 goals against) in league play for the new calendar year.
Overall in 2014, Jose Mourinho’s Blues are 10-3-1—their only loss came to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in the FA Cup—and they have outscored opponents by a sinewy 25-6 margin behind an extremely balanced scoring attack which ranks third in the EPL in scoring (52 goals).
This steadily improving team would now have to be considered among the 10 best clubs in Europe once again, along with the likes of defending Champions League holders Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, City, Juventus, Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid.
The Europa League champions have also allowed the least number of goals (22) in the Premier League this season, so make yourself a little reminder to send goalkeeper Petr Cech a box of fine Belgian chocolates in the offseason.
And maybe a cross in case Branislav Ivanovic decides to attack him again. Lord knows Ivanovic may have been infected when he was bitten by Count Suarez last season inside Castle Anfield in the Barbecued Tricep Incident of Merseyside.
May you live in interesting times, right?
Aston Villa (8-17-13) is one of the weirder teams in the Premier League, as Paul Lambert’s crew actually has a better record away from Villa Park (4-5-5, 15 goals for, 16 goals against) than it does at home (4-2-8, 16 goals for, 22 goals against) at Villa Park.
Seventeen of the 11th-place Claret and Blue’s 31 points have come on the road and if Villa does end staying up in England’s top flight, the points it earned as visitors may end up being a big reason why.
As expected, the Lions leading scorer this season is Christian Benteke (9 goals); the mercurial Villa striker who scored the lone goals for his club in this fixture last season, a 2-1 Chelsea win, and this season, another 2-1 Blues win back in August at Stamford Bridge.
Besides Benteke, Villa’s more consistent players are Gabriel Agbonlahor, Ashley Westwood, Fabian Delph, Leandro Bacuna (five goals), Andreas Weimann (four assists) and 29-year-old American goalkeeper Brad Guzan (five clean sheets). Worth noting here, Chelsea midfielder and Claret and Blue loanee Ryan Bertrand can’t play for the home side in this one.
As will be the case from this point forward, Chelsea (66 points) will be motivated by fear that either second-place Liverpool (59 points), third-place Arsenal (59 points) or fourth-place Manchester City (57 points)—or all of the above—will catch them in the Premier League table.
With all three of those clubs having a game or games in hand on the Blues—the Reds and Gunners one and the Sky Blues three—that fear will certainly not be artificial but more like a royal blue perma-angst.
Chelsea has sort of held the upper hand in this series over the last 10 meetings (6-2-2), outscoring Villa 29-16 in those 10 games and the Pride of Southwest London has defeated the Lions four straight times (16-4 goals).
So making it five straight with a tighter squad is more than logical here, especially with midfielders like Eden Hazard (13 goals), Oscar (six goals), Andre Schurrle (six goals) and Frank Lampard (five goals) all contributing in the omnipresent absence of any real consistent strikers.
Speaking of which, Fernando Torres (strain) may be out for a little bit so expect Samuel Eto’o (seven goals) and Demba Ba to see a lot of minutes up front at the position for the red-hot Blues over the next two weeks in the team’s usual 4-2-3-1 tactical formation.
With nasty Nemanja Matic finally filling a glaring hole in Chelsea’s defensive midfield and John Terry, Gary Cahill, Ivanovic and Cesar Azpilicueta all seemingly trying to outdo each other in the backline, this team just doesn't give up more than one goal anymore, meaning if it can score two, it can beat you and repeatedly take the three points back home on the airplane to SW6 like clockwork.
With 2-1 appearing to be the new mold score between these two clubs—and Benteke tallying for the Lions—gonna choose to ride the camel in the direction he’s slowly plodding and predict another 2-1 scoreline, despite my better judgement that Cech and the Blues defense will push for its 10th clean sheet of 2014.
Next up on Chelsea’s schedule is both a fun and extremely important game, the second leg of the Blues Round of 16 UEFA Champions League series with former club legend Didier Drogba and Galatasaray at Stamford Bridge on March 18.
The two teams played to a 1-1 draw in Istanbul in the first leg and it definitely wouldn't be hyperbole to say that this baby may be the most important game of the year so far for the Blues.
After that stress test, Chelsea will play its final two Saturday London derbies—against Arsenal at home (March 22) and against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park (March 29)—before beginning the final six matches of the Premier League season in which the storied London club could very well win the championship in The Special One’s first year back.
That would be pretty special.
PREDICTION: Aston Villa 1 Chelsea 2
BET: Chelsea -230
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