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.

Sargent signs first professional contract on his 18th birthday

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Josh Sargent’s 18th birthday is one he’ll never forget.

The young American phenom was finally able to sign his first professional contract on Tuesday after turning 18-years old, passing the FIFA threshold for when a foreigner can sign a pro contract. Sargent has been training with Werder Bremen’s youth teams for the last few months and has even trained with the first team and featured for the Werder Bremen U23s.

“We’ve gone over all the formalities and Josh signed his professional contract with us earlier,” Bremen sporting director Frank Baumann said on Tuesday afternoon. “Again, we’re delighted he decided to join us. He’s settled in brilliantly since the turn of the year.”

[READ: UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas]

Sargent will continue to train with the youth teams and reserves, and will be eligible to feature for the Werder Bremen first team for the 2018-2019 season.

Orlando City sign defender Sane from Werder Bremen

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After making a number of moves to improve its attack this offseason, Orlando City SC is now splashing the cash to improve its backline.

The club announced on Tuesday the signing of veteran centerback Lamine Sane from Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga on a permanent deal. It appears that with less than six months left on his contract and Sane not in Werder Bremen manager Florian Kohfeldt’s plans, he was allowed to leave on a free transfer.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

“Lamine will significantly strengthen our back line,” Orlando City general manager Niki Budalic said in a statement. “He brings tremendous experience at the highest levels of European football and we believe he will fit right in with what we’re trying to build in Orlando.”

Sane started 27 times for Werder Bremen during a struggling 2016-2017 season, but had made just 11 appearances this season for the Bundesliga side. He’s also made 25 caps for Senegal, but the French-born defender hasn’t appeared for them since 2015. Perhaps a good start to the season in MLS could get him a surprise spot in the World Cup squad.

The 30-year-old joins a rebuilt starting lineup featuring other veterans as Orlando City looks to win in the near term, after three straight seasons of missing the playoffs.

While the team lost Cyle Larin and Kaka in the offseason, Jason Kreis and co. brought in Dom Dwyer late in the 2017 season, Justin Meram, Josue Colman, Uri Rosell and Sacha Kljestan in the offseason.  Along with a couple of new outside backs, Sane is the first signing to shore up the leaky middle of the park for Orlando, one that the club’s fans hope will lead Orlando City to a top-six finish in the Eastern Conference in the least in 2018.

Report: Barcelona agree nearly $50 million deal for Brazilian starlet Arthur

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Barcelona has again beaten out its league and global rivals for the next up and coming Brazilian star.

According to a report from Brazilian publication Globo Esporte, Barcelona has agreed with Gremio on a $49.4 million transfer fee for midfielder Arthur. The deal would see 60 percent of the fee go to Gremio and the rest to agents and the owners of part of the player’s rights.

[READ: Spurs ‘have capacity’ to win Champions League]

The 21-year-old’s deal is still subject to the standard medical tests, and wouldn’t go through until January 2019.

Arthur broke onto the scene as a permanent member of the Gremio first team in 2017, starting 27 league matches and nine times in the Copa Libertadores as a dominant holding midfielder.

Barcelona will likely look for him to play a similar role to countryman Paulinho or Sergio Busquets, controlling the tempo of the game with passing but also being able to quickly snuff out an attack.

Arthur created controversy in December when he was photographed wearing a Barcelona shirt. It was around then that news began to leak that Barcelona began negotiations for his services. According to other news reports, the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, and Inter Milan were also interested in Arthur’s services.

Wigan, Manchester City cooperating with police after pitch invasion

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Some Wigan Athletic fans got a little too excited following the club’s shock 1-0 win over Manchester City in the FA Cup, and the police are now investigating alleged crimes that happened on the field and outside of the stadium.

Police confirmed to the BBC that two supporters were arrested outside the stadium on suspicion of assault while the police are working with both Wigan and Man City to investigate what happened pitch side after the final whistle.

[READ: Wigan bounce 10-man Man City]

Man City striker Sergio Aguero was involved in an altercation with a fan on the field after the game, and it appeared that Man City supporters threw down advertising hoardings onto the field.

“Football is a family event and the disruption that players and fans alike faced will not be tolerated,” Greater Manchester police chief superintendent Stuart Ellison told the BBC. “As soon as people were on the pitch, we immediately deployed our resources to the front of the stands, where they were able to keep the two groups of supporters apart and prevent any further disruption.”