Premier League Preview: Aston Villa vs. Chelsea

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  • Aston Villa upset Chelsea at Villa Park, 1-0, in March of last season as the Blues’ title chase fell just short. 
  • Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has never won a Premier League game at Villa Park (0-3-2 all-time).
  • Diego Costa (17 league goals) has outscored the entire Aston Villa (11) team in PL play this season, but is suspended.

Chelsea currently sit atop the Premier League table, while Aston Villa find themselves in 16th as another nightmare season wears on ahead of Saturday’s meeting at Villa Park (Watch live on NBCSN and online via Live Extra, 9:45 am ET).

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

As Chelsea chase yet another Premier League title, Aston Villa find themselves once again floundering in the mid- to late-teens of the Premier League table, just three points clear of relegation. Three points for either side on Saturday will go a long way toward making — or saving — someone’s season.

The two sides met at Stamford Bridge back in September as Chelsea scored a comfortable 3-0 victory on the back of goals by their three Brazilian (one turned-Spaniard) stars Oscar, Diego Costa and Willian. Aston Villa registered just a single shot on goal in that game after holding just 37 percent of possession.

While no single player has scored more than three league goals for Aston Villa (Andreas Weimann and Gabriel Agbonlahor), three Chelsea players are nearing double digits in goals scored, led by Costa’s 17 — which again, bears repeating, is six more than the entire Aston Villa team have scored this season (fewest in the Premier League after 23 games).

[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]

Aston Villa defender Ron Vlaar could return from a knee injury, as could Joe Cole (hamstring), while Philippe Senderos (calf) is likely out once again.

Meanwhile, Chelsea could reportedly be without midfield maestro Cesc Fabregas (hamstring) who also missed last weekend’s top of the table clash with Manchester City. Fabregas suffered the injury days earlier in Chelsea’s Capital One Cup semifinal second leg victory over Liverpool.

What they’re saying

Paul Lambert, on forward Christian Benteke’s struggles — “He’s not stupid and he knows he’s had a dip in form. This will make him stronger and he’s having a slump that all strikers have. If he can get back to what he was, he’s unplayable when he’s bang on his game. Will I take him out the firing line? We’ll make a decision before Saturday but there are options.”

Jose Mourinho, on how many teams are in the title race — “That’s not my problem. We are one side. Its for the others to decide if they are title contenders. We see ourselves as title contenders.”

Prediction

It’s tough to see any side with 11 goals scored in 23 games putting even one goal past this Chelsea defense — let alone two or three, which is what they’ll almost certainly need. Another routine away victory for Mourinho’s men. Aston Villa 0-2 Chelsea.

Watford chasing Rennes, Senegal star Sarr

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Watford may capture one of the rising stars of the game.

Ismaila Sarr would cost the Hornets a club transfer record fee, and Sky Sports says that Watford and Rennes are about $10 million apart.

The Ligue 1 side reportedly wants $34 million for the Senegal national team right wing.

[ VIDEO: Nketiah leads Arsenal win ]

Sarr, 21, scored a goal and an assist in Senegal’s run to the Africa Cup of Nations final, playing opposite Sadio Mane of Liverpool.

He posted 13 goals with 14 assists last season between Ligue 1, the French Cup, and the Europa League. He was the lone Rennes player to score against Arsenal in the UEL Round of 16.

Watford has held onto Abdoulaye Doucoure and Dodi Lukebakio this offseason. Lukebakio is also a 21-year-old right wing, and had a sensational loan season with Fortuna Dusseldorf in 2019-20.

Nketiah leads Arsenal past Fiorentina (video)

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Eddie Nketiah scored twice as Arsenal beat Fiorentina 3-0 in Charlotte on Saturday.

Joe Willock also scored for the Gunners, which beat Colorado Rapids and Bayern Munich in their first two matches of the preseason and meet Real Madrid in Maryland on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Guardiola hails KDB ]

Fiorentina took 18 of the match’s 30 shots, though Arsenal had nearly 60 percent of the ball.

Nketiah, 20, scored against Burnley in last season’s Premier League finale and then late against Bayern Munich earlier this week.

He was deft in a high-pressure spot for this one.

Premier League friendlies: Watford beats Bayer, Man Utd over Inter

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Arsenal and Fiorentina are set to kickoff in Charlotte tonight, with the Gunners the last of a bevy of Premier League sides to engage in preseason friendlies this muggy Saturday.

[ MORE: Guardiola hails KDB ]


Girona 1-2 Bournemouth

Juanpe’s late header pushed La Liga’s hosts past Eddie Howe and his 10-man Cherries, playing down after VAR deemed Jack Simpson‘s foul worthy of a sending off. Ryan Fraser scored Bournemouth’s goal, assisted by Jordon Ibe.

Northampton Town 0-4 Sheffield United

Oliver Norwood converted two penalties in an easy win for Chris Wilder in his return to a club he played for and managed.

Fulham 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion

Pascal Gross scored with an early free kick — a Megan Rapinoe special — but Tom Cairney scored twice after halftime for the Championship side.

Cheltenham Town 1-2 Leicester City

The Foxes collected a second win over a lower league side this week, with Jamie Vardy and Marc Albrighton on the board.

Newcastle United 1-0 West Ham United (Shanghai)

New manager Steve Bruce watched from the crowd as the Magpies made amends for a 4-0 loss to Wolves by blanking West Ham. Jamie Sterry‘s cross for Yoshinori Muto was delightful, and the Japanese striker’s finish was well-taken.

Port Vale 1-3 Burnley; Crewe Alexandra 0-1 Burnley

Chris Wood, Matej Vydra and Robbie Brady scored as the Clarets overcame an early Nick Pope goal to beat Port Vale, but the Premier League side couldn’t do much in a simultaneous friendly at Crewe.

Inter Milan 0-1 Manchester United (Singapore)

Substitute forward Mason Greenwood, just 17, scored the late goal in a match United controlled, outshooting Inter 21-8.

Preston North End 1-3 Southampton

Brace-bagging Danny Ings doesn’t usually have a problem with finish, so passing the ball directly to him is not something we’d recommend to goalkeepers. Jake Vokins also scored for Saints at Deepdale.

Watford 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen (Austria)

Will Hughes and Andre Gray scored as the Hornets collected a win over Champions League competition.

Man City (0-0, 2-3 pens) Wolves (Shanghai)

Rui Patricio was very good over 90 minutes, and stopped City’s first two penalty attempts as Wolves continue to perplex the PL champions.

WATCH: Marco Fabian smashes set piece goal

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Marco Fabian sent a missile toward goal, and perhaps it’s good the goalkeeper didn’t get to the hand-breaking shot.

Philadelphia took a 1-0 lead over Chicago on Saturday in Chester, Pennsylvania, thanks to the Mexican midfielder.

[ REPORT: Man Utd locks up De Gea ]

It was a pretty set piece from Jim Curtin’s men, a backwards played free kick was laid off to Fabian for his audacious rip.

Fabian hasn’t had a wonderful 2019 season, but his fourth goal of the season will give Union supporters hope that he’ll pick up his form and make the already East-leading side all the more dangerous.