Can Villa cement fourth place? Aston Villa Vs Chelsea Preview

This Saturday sees the Villans take on Chelsea under the lights at Villa Park in a vitally important game for Champions League chasing Villa. A win could prove to be enough to seal fourth place. I am going to preview the game and where it could be won and lost for the home side.

What a time to be a Villa fan, ey? The past two weeks have seen the club visit the league leaders Arsenal and sweep them aside, qualify for a first European semi-final since 1982 and then stretch their lead over league rivals Spurs to six points with a convincing win over Bournemouth.

It would only have been in the fans wildest dreams that this Villa team would be sat in fourth and still competing in Europe at the back end of April, but here we are! This exciting, but relentless, phase of the season continues this weekend with a tough game against Chelsea.

For those that have watched Chelsea this season or kept tabs on their results, you will know that they have certainly had their highs and lows. A young, inexperienced and exciting team that have provided their fans with some brilliant moments but also some very low points that have certainly led to most not knowing what kind of Chelsea performance you will see game-by-game!

Having almost outplayed Manchester City at Wembley and looked so good during that narrow loss, the team then went to Arsenal and put in a shambolic performance in a crushing 5-0 defeat.

The key factor for Chelsea in determining whether they are likely to perform or not is Cole Palmer. The young English international has taken the league by storm following his move from Manchester City last summer and despite his inexperience at the top level, he is the glue that holds the Chelsea team together.

He is a leader and rallies the players around him. He can dribble. He can shoot. He has grit and determination. He is a future legend of the Premier League. If he plays Chelsea immediately have a better chance of success.

He was absent in the game against Arsenal and probably a key reason as to why the team played so poorly. Listening to the "UTV podcast | An Aston Villa podcast" (which I recommend you do, too!) they said the following:

"Cole Palmer is the key to their whole team. Without him they're terrible. Look at his stats, his goals and assists. For me, he is a shoe in to start for England in the Summer."

UTV podcast | An Aston Villa podcast

It was Palmer who played a key role when these two sides last met. Back at the start of February Chelsea came away from Villa Park as 3-1 winners to progress to the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Chelsea were far the better team on the night and Palmer's ability to float between the lines was too much for Villa to handle. His influence on the game and passing through for Nicolas Jackson against Villa's high line caused a lot of problems for the Villa defence and is something that will need to be considered by Emery when looking ahead to this game. So what do Villa need to do better this time?

Enzo Fernandez
Aston Villa v Chelsea - Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay / James Baylis - AMA/GettyImages

One important thing to consider is that the FA Cup game came in the middle of Villa's sticky patch this season. Form had dipped and fatigue had certainly kicked in with the gruelling schedule.

Right now Villa are back in their groove and are playing with huge belief and the players and fans will be boosted hugely by the news that Unai Emery has extended his contract as Head Coach. This should help to generate a fantastic atmosphere at Villa Park on Saturday evening.

Ollie Watkins

Douglas Luiz returns from suspension for Villa and will likely come back into the team despite the brilliant work of John McGinn and Youri Tielemans in his absense. For me, Luiz is too good a player and too vital to Emery and the way Villa play for him to miss out.

Ollie Watkins will look to continue his impressive form and one more league goal would make him the first Villa player to hit the 20 goal mark in a Premier League season for Aston Villa. He certainly tried his best against Bournemouth (!!!) but played a key role in the victory and will be hoping for a little more luck in front of goal this weekend against a Chelsea team that tend to give up a lot of chances to the opposition.

They key battle for Villa will be how to stop Palmer, should he recover from the illness that ruled him out against Arsenal, and I believe that job will fall to John McGinn. As Villa's leader and most aggressive man in midfield I feel it will be his job to limit Palmer's influence so keep an eye out on how closely he pays attention to the Chelsea man's movements. For me, McGinn will be a key man for Villa.

John McGinn, Dominic Solanke
Michael Steele/GettyImages

I believe Villa will look to gain as much control of the ball as they can and therefore be slightly more reserved in attack than they were against Bournemouth.

The keeping of possession and playing from the back to invite Chelsea up the pitch should then open the gaps for the likes of Watkins, Leon Bailey and Morgan Rogers to attack the Chelsea back line.

I am predicting a 2-1 win for Villa that, as mentioned, could be enough to clinch that lucrative fourth spot. To have a nine point lead over Spurs who have Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City still to play it would take a monumental effort for them to better Villa's results.