Premier League Preview: Aston Villa vs. Chelsea

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  • Aston Villa have not won back to back Barclays Premier League home matches since August 2011.
  • Chelsea are unbeaten in their last six Premier League away games, keeping four clean sheets and conceding just two goals (W4 D2).
  • Aston Villa have won just one of the last eight Premier League matches against Chelsea, losing the last four in a row.

Chelsea look to look to hold their Premier League edge on fellow title-chasers Manchester City and Arsenal on Saturday when the Blues take on Aston Villa in Birmingham (watch live on NBCSN at 1:30pm ET or online via NBC Sports Live Extra).

Chelsea are unbeaten in the league since the 3-2 shock defeat at Stoke City back on December 7th. Since then Jose Mourinho’s squad have gone 14 straight matches without a loss, drawing only three times (to Arsenal, West Ham and West Brom) during the span.

Their most recent conquest was an impressive one, knocking off Spurs 4-0 at Stamford Bridge. Yet beneath the lopsided scoreline was the troubling fact that all four goals came as a result of either 1) major mistakes in Spurs’ defense or 2) questionable referee calls.

I’m not suggesting that, like Mourinho said, Chelsea has no strikers.

I’m just saying that if I’m Paul Lambert, I’m telling my squad that Chelsea’s attack can be stifled. Decent motivation for a team that’s only won one of their last eight league matches against the Blues.

On current form, the Villains have upheld their season-long reputation as being the most inconsistent and under-performing club in the Premier League. On January 29th they came from 2-0 down to beat rivals West Brom 4-3 in the West Midlands derby. Huge win.

So how’d they follow that up?

By going winless over the next four matches: 2-1 loss at Everton, 0-2 loss to West Ham, a 0-0 draw with Cardiff and a 1-0 loss to Newcastle.

Two points. For Aston Villa that’s just not good enough. If I were a Villa fan — and, praise be to the God’s of Football, I’m not — that’s exactly how I’d feel. Like my team simply wasn’t competing at the level they should be. Underperforming.

But then what do Villa go and do next?

Smoke Norwich City 4-1. Again, they come from behind. And again, Christian Benteke was scoring goals. Great to see him starting to look more like the striker who tore the Premier League a new one last year when he netted 19 times in 34 appearances.

Point being – Villa is inconsistent as all hell. Although things do seem to be improving…

So can they beat Chelsea?

What They’re Saying

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho: “We know that to win matches you need to score more goals than the opponent, but one of the ways you have to score more is if you don’t concede.”

Aston Villa winger Andi Weimann: “They are top of the league now so obviously everyone is looking to catch them and we hope we will be able to take points off them. I think attacking-wise if we are on our game we can hurt anyone and we’ll look to do that against Chelsea.”

Prediction

On a good day, I think Villa can nip a point here. Benteke is back, they have no new injuries (N’Zogbia, Kozak and Okore all term absentees) and they seem to be coming into form.

Problem is, if Chelsea wants a shot at the title the Blues need to win every single one of their final nine matches. So even with Fernando Torres (groin), Ashley Cole (knee) and possibly David Luiz (groin, late fitness test) sidelines with injury, Villa don’t stand a prayer in this one.

Chelsea takes all three points. Mourinho says something awesome. Done deal.

2-year doping ban upheld for Finland, CSKA Moscow player

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) The Court of Arbitration for Sport has upheld a two-year ban for CSKA Moscow midfielder Roman Eremenko for a positive test for cocaine.

[ MORE: Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea ]

CAS says the ban imposed by UEFA was “appropriate” and dismissed the Finland international’s appeal.

[ MORE: Vertonghen says Spurs need to “level up” like rest of PL contenders ]

The ban will expire on Oct. 5, 2018, when Eremenko will be 31.

Eremenko tested positive after playing in a Champions League game for CSKA Moscow against Bayer Leverkusen last September. The 2-2 result was not affected despite Eremenko scoring CSKA’s second goal.

Born in Moscow, Eremenko grew up in Finland and has represented its national team 73 times.

Webb says De Jong would have been sent off with video review

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NEW YORK (AP) Howard Webb says he would have given Dutch midfielder Nigel De Jong a red card in the 2010 World Cup final if a video assistant referee had been in place.

The retired English referee showed De Jong a yellow card in the 28th minute for his karate kick into the chest of Spain’s Xabi Alonso. Hired in March to oversee video technology for professional soccer in the U.S. and Canada, Webb held a media seminar Friday ahead of its Aug. 5 launch in Major League Soccer.

Webb says: “Yes, it was a clear red card. It was a clear and obvious error on my part not to send the player off, and VAR would have been able to recommend a review to me, and I would have been able to make the right call.”

Now 46, Webb was a Premier League referee from 2003-14. He worked the Champions League and World Cup finals in 2010, became director of referees at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, and started in March as manager of video assistant referee operations for the Professional Referee Organization.

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City 0-1 Atlanta United (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Friday night’s effort at Orlando City Stadium wasn’t the prettiest for either side but Atlanta United will gladly take three points from the fixture as the Central Florida venue proved to be a fortress once more. The Lions were far superior in their attacking threats throughout the match, testing USMNT and Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan on multiple occasions. However, it was Hector Villalba that proved to be the difference when he blasted a long-distance effort to beat Joe Bendik in the 86th minute. Atlanta extends its unbeaten streak to four matches with Friday’s decision, keeping Tata Martino’s side in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, while Orlando City moves into fifth.

Three moments that mattered

36′ — Guzan stands tall, denies Rivas — Carlos Rivas thought he scorched this one (and he did…), but Brad Guzan acted like it was nothing as he held his ground to make the stop.

39′ — Spector gets ripped off by Guzan — The U.S. goalkeeper is at it again… What a save!

86′ — Villalba unleashes stunner to propel Atlanta — Sometimes it just takes one good hit as a striker.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Brad Guzan

Goalscorers: Hector Villalba (86′)

Report: Man City adding Mendy to continue backline restoration

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Fresh off of completing a record deal to help bolster the club’s back line this summer, Manchester City is back at it with the Premier League season looming.

[ MORE: Alvaro Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea ]

The Citizens are reportedly on the brink of signing Monaco left back Benjamin Mendy to yet another world-record fee — which will total over $67 million.

Confirmation of the deal has yet to be announced by either team, but L’Equipe is reporting that the Citizens are hot on the 23-year-old’s trail in adding to their pricy back four.

Manager Pep Guardiola and Man City have not been shy readjusting their defensive unit over the past year, adding expensive first-team choices John Stones and Kyle Walker.