Chelsea's cushion at the top of the Premier League is less comfortable than it looks. The club holds a seven-point advantage on both Liverpool and Arsenal, but each has a game in hand. The Blues are nine points up on Manchester City, but the Citizens have three games in hand.
The Blues have nine games to go, and with the three above teams nipping at their heels, they can hardly afford to get complacent.
Aston Villa certainly won't take it easy on them. The Villans gave Chelsea all they could handle when the teams met in August, as the Blues escaped with a 2-1 win, and Villa certainly come into this game well-rested, having last played on March 2.
Can they pull off the home upset? Or will the Blues continue their winning ways?
When: Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET
Saturday at 5:30 p.m. GMT
Where: Villa Park, Birmingham, England
Odds: Chelsea (52.9 percent), Aston Villa (22.4 percent) and draw (24.7 percent), according to Bloomberg Sports
Aston Villa don't exactly have the Premier League's staunchest home record. In fact, the Villans have lost eight games at home this season, a pretty staggering mark. Chelsea have been pretty solid on the road (25 of 42 possible points) and won't be intimidated by Villa's poor home record.
Chelsea will be without Fernando Torres on Saturday, via ESPN, but old man Samuel Eto'o played well against Spurs and will likely be given the start. Here's hoping he scores in this game, too, if only so we can see his goal celebration poking fun of Jose Mourinho.
Speaking of Mourinho, the man continues his mind games, as he continues to reiterate the fact that he believes City are the title favorites, presumably to keep the pressure on the Manchester side. And his captain, John Terry, has joined in that talk, via BBC Sport:
I think we all agree—Manchester City are the strongest side. They have shown that in games they performed, and they have got games in hand as well.
It's great to have the points on the board at the moment, but for sure they have got a bigger and better squad, a lot of firepower up front.
It's almost as though Chelsea want you to forget their huge payroll or the fact that many people predicted them to be the Premier League champions this season. They'd much prefer City to feel weighed down by expectations, even if those expectations also apply to Chelsea.
But that's the Mourinho way, as Mark Worrall of ESPN writes:
Whatever Mourinho might choose to tell the media is done with the sole intention of keeping the spotlight away from his players. It's a genius move. Among all his statistics about what it is and what it might be, there is one telling number that has been cunningly overlooked—14. That is the number of games Chelsea have played in the Premier League since they were last beaten.
What Mourinho's men have is momentum. The pursuit of victory is relentless. Captained by the imperious John Terry, arguably playing some of the best football of his career, the Blues look like they mean business from the first minute of each match to the very last, and the desire to succeed is evident. These are the hallmarks of champions. These are the hallmarks of Mourinho.
Of course, all of the mind games in the world ring hollow if you don't pair them with wins. While Chelsea have been consistently good all season long and led by the brilliant Eden Hazard and the league's best defense by a wide margin, Aston Villa have been tough to predict.
With Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor on the attack, Villa are always dangerous. But dangerous enough to halt Chelsea's excellent form?
No, probably not. Mourinho and company have hit their stride and should stifle a Villa team that would prefer to attack on the counter, but will find it difficult to do so against a Chelsea team that has made caution an art form this season.
Still, with Arsenal a week away, you couldn't completely fault the Blues if they looked past Villa a bit. And that would be a pretty grave mistake against a Villa team that has some goals in them. But in the end, Mourinho Ball shall prevail, as it generally has this season.
Chelsea win, 2-1.
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