Premier League Preview: Aston Villa vs. Chelsea

1 Comment
  • 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.

LIVE – Arsenal v. Man City in FA Cup semifinal

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Arsenal and Manchester City clash in an FA Cup semifinal on Sunday at Wembley which promises to be a case of all-out attack.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola met earlier this month with their teams drawing 2-2 at the Emirates Stadium in an end-to-end encounter.

The winner of this semifinal will play Chelsea in the FA Cup final on May 27 at Wembley after Antonio Conte‘s side beat Tottenham 4-2 on Saturday.

In team news Arsenal stick with the 3-4-2-1 formation they used at Middlesbrough with Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil off Olivier Giroud.

City line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Sergio Aguero up top and Leroy Sane, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne off him.

Click on the link above to follow live coverage of what promises to be an entertaining semifinal, while here at Pro Soccer Talk we will have plenty more reaction and analysis after the game too.

STREAM LIVE: Burnley host injury-hit Man United

Leave a comment

Burnley host Manchester United on Sunday (Watch live, 9:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at fortress Turf Moor with the Clarets in search of yet another huge scalp.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

Sean Dyche‘s men have already beat the likes of Everton and Liverpool at home this season and one more victory should all but secure their Premier League status and first-ever consecutive seasons in the PL.

As for United, Jose Mourinho’s squad is depleted and after the news that Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo both suffered “significant knee ligaments injuries” in the Europa League quarterfinal clash against Anderlecht the Red Devils’ resources have been stretched even further.

In team news Burnley stick with a solid 4-4-2 formation as Ashley Barnes and Andre Gray play up top, with former United duo Tom Heaton and Michael Keane also starting.

United make eight changes and line up with what looks like a three-man central defense given that Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Rojo are all missing, while Wayne Rooney starts up top and captains United.

LINEUPS

Burnley: Heaton; Lowton, Keane, Mee, Ward; Boyd, Barton, Hendrick, Brady; Gray, Barnes. Subs: Flanagan, Westwood, Defour, Tarkowski, Gudmundsson, Agyei, Pope

Manchester United: De Gea; Darmian, Bailly, Blind; Young, Herrera, Pogba, Fellaini, Lingard; Martial, Rooney. Subs: Romero, Fosu-Mensah, Tuanzebe, Shaw, Carrick, Mkhitaryan, Rashford

Barcelona leaves Neymar out of ‘El Clasico’ v Real Madrid

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MADRID (AP) Barcelona has decided to leave Neymar out of the decisive “clasico” against Real Madrid because of the legal uncertainty over an appeal to overturn his suspension.

The club had taken all legal measures to try to clear the player for Sunday’s match at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, but ended up not including him in the squad because there had been no ruling on its latest appeal by Sunday morning.

Barcelona’s first appeal was rejected by the Spanish football federation last week, but the club was also trying to reverse the suspension through a local sports tribunal.

The club released a statement on Sunday criticizing the tribunal for not making a decision on the case in time for the match.

The tribunal said Saturday that while it had not yet had the opportunity to consider the appeal, that did not mean the striker was cleared to play.

Neymar was handed a two-game suspension for sarcastically applauding an assistant referee after being sent off in a 2-0 loss at Malaga on April 8.

The two-match ban was in addition to the one-game suspension he was automatically required to serve for the red card. The Brazilian had already sat out one match.

Two-time champion Barcelona also won’t have the injured Rafinha and Aleix Vidal, who have long-term injuries.

Madrid, seeking its first title since 2012, is expected to welcome the return of Gareth Bale, who had been sidelined because of a muscle injury.

Madrid enters Sunday’s game with a three-point lead over Barcelona. Madrid also has a game in hand.

MLS roundup: FCD win battle of unbeatens; POR rebound vs. VAN

AP Photo/LM Otero
Leave a comment

With seven MLS Saturday afternoons/evenings officially in the books, only 27 more to go…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage

FC Dallas 1-0 Sporting Kansas City

The only two remaining unbeaten teams faced off in Frisco on Saturday, and only one came out still unblemished. FCD dominated in the two most important facets of the game — chances created, and goals.

Maynor Figueroa scored the game’s only goal, a 77th-minute header to put home Michael Barrios’ floated cross toward the back post. If not for the (increasingly typical) heroics of Sporting KC goalkeeper Tim Melia (five saves), FCD would have already been 3-0 or 4-0 in front by that point. Sporting’s only shot on target didn’t arrive until the 47th minute, and it was far from a clear-cut chance, as Jimmy Medranda fired from the corner of the 18-yard box and hardly tested Jesse Gonzalez with the effort.

The win sees FCD move to six games unbeaten to start the season (three wins, three draws), while Sporting suffer their first defeat in seven games.


Portland Timbers 2-1 Vancouver Whitecaps

Darlington Nagbe and Darren Mattocks bagged goals for Portland, who wasted little time in bouncing back from last weekend’s home defeat to Sporting. Nagbe’s goal, a stunner from outside the penalty area (WATCH HERE) opened the scoring in the 18th minute, and Mattocks made it 2-0 five minutes before halftime.

Fredy Montero scored his third goal in two games to bring Vancouver back to 2-1 just before the hour mark, but that’s as close as the visitors would get.

Diego Valeri was carried off the field in the 80th minute, which is the worst scare that Timbers fans could have possibly imagined, though the Argentine superstar told reporters after the game that he was feeling much better.


Real Salt Lake 1-3 Atlanta United

The honeymoon period is over for Mike Petke who, after back-to-back wins to open his tenure as RSL head coach, suffered his first defeat since taking over for Jeff Cassar five games into the season.

A series of comedic errors doomed RSL just about from the start, as Hector Villalba (9th minute) and Yamil Asad (46th), two of Atlanta’s South American starlets, put the visitors 2-0 ahead a minute into the first half — the latter was set up by Miguel Almiron, another of the young, South American attackers at Gerardo Martino’s disposal. Albert Rusnak pulled RSL back to 2-1 in the 69th minute, but it would remain that way until second-half stoppage time, when Brandon Vazquez beat Nick Rimando for a 3-1 clincher.


New York Red Bulls 2-0 Columbus Crew SC

Columbus’s defeat away to New York went from bad, to worse, to worst, in 39 minutes’ time on Saturday. Midfield revelation Artur went off with a nasty arm injury in the 6th minute, Alex Muyl put the home side 1-0 up in the 11th minute Daniel Royer made it 2-0 from the penalty spot in the 38th minute, and defensive revelation (and rookie) Alex Crognale went off injured immediately thereafter.


Houston Dynamo 2-0 San Jose Earthquakes

Wilmer Cabrera’s side will live and die by the form of his young attacking quartet this season. On Saturday, Erick Torres and Alberth Elis delivered the goals (read: goals) as Houston picked up a rather comfortable him win over San Jose.

Torres opened the scoring in the 9th minute, and though Elis didn’t double the advantage for another 63 minutes, the result was rarely, if ever, in doubt. San Jose managed just two shots on target (Houston had just three, for what it’s worth), as Adolfo Machado, Tyler Deric and Co. kept their first clean sheet of the season.


New England Revolution 2-2 D.C. United

In a battle of bottom-half Eastern Conference sides, New England and D.C. drew 2-2 after Lee Nguyen and a Sean Franklin own goal stalemated tallies from Jared Jeffrey and Sebastien Le Toux.