BIRMINGHAM, England (Sporting Alert) – Leaders Chelsea will look to maintain their five-point advantage at the top of the English Premier League with a win against Aston Villa on Saturday.
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The Blues head into the weekend fixtures on 53 points, five ahead of defending champion Manchester City, while Aston Villa is currently fighting for survival and sits 16th in the league standings on 22 points after 23 games.
Manager Jose Mourinho is set to hand winger Juan Cuadrado his Chelsea debut, after the Colombian completed his reported £23.3 million transfer move to Stanford Bridge on transfer deadline day.
However, Spanish playmaker and the league’s leading assister Cesc Fabregas remains doubtful because of an injury. Fabregas is listed as doubtful with a hamstring injury, but reports are suggesting that he could miss the next two games with the problem.
The EPL leaders are also waiting on defender Filipe Luis and midfielder John Obi Mikel, who are both listed as doubtful.
Missing for sure though his leading striker Diego Costa, as he is still suspended.
Meanwhile, defender and captain Ron Vlaar could make a return for Aston Villa in this fixture, after the Dutchman recovered from the knee injury he suffered on New Year’s Day.
Vlaar could come into the starting lineup for Jores Okore.
Joe Cole is also doubtful for the contest as he continues to recover from a hamstring strain, but Libor Kozák and Philippe Senderos are both out.
On-loan Manchester City winger Scott Sinclair — another Deadline Day mover, is set to make his first start for Aston Villa, who is desperate for a win.
Manager Paul Lambert has been talking about his team’s recent struggles to score goals — after seeing his squad going 10 hours and 12 minutes of English Premier League action without finding the back of the net.
Christian Benteke was the last scorer for Aston Villa and he did so against Manchester United on Dec. 12.
The struggles to score goals in recent times mean the Villans enter this game searching for their first win in eight league outings, after losing five and drawing the next three.
Villa Park is no fortress either for Lambert’s side, which has one victory in the last nine English Premier League contests.
The 5-0 hammering against Arsenal in the last outing saw Aston Villa achieving an unwanted record after failing to score a goal in six successive league matches for the first time in club history.
Chelsea has also had a good run against Saturday’s opponents, having won 5 of their last 6 matches against the hosts in all competitions.
With Vlaar returning to the setup, it is highly unlikely that Aston Villa will suffer another meltdown like the one against Arsenal.
However, the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Cuadrado, Loic Remy and Willian will make life difficult for the home side and 2-0 victory for Chelsea is the most popular result amongst the experts and predictors.
NOTE: Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has never won a game at Villa Park. In his five visits, the Portuguese coach has three draws and two defeats — with one of those defeats coming last year after Villa recording a 1-0 win to end the Blues’ 14-match unbeaten run in the Premier League at the time.