Club Focus – Aston Villa – O’Neill relishes Chelsea rematch

With the semi-final of the FA Cup only a day away, plenty of excitement and anxiety surrounds one of the most important matches this weekend. After their seven goal rout at the hands of Chelsea in the league, Martin O’Neill claims that his players are determined to settle the score against the Blues.

While James Milner is set to return from an achilles problem after resuming training with the squad, Richard Dunne has given the Villans an injury scare ahead of Saturday’s semi-final clash as he was forced to withdraw from training yesterday morning. O’Neill, however, did not want to rule his centre-back out of Saturday’s match: “Dunne has had a bit of a setback and he came out of training this morning. Richard was a bit sore. It is an injury we have to be nursing through. It has been troublesome for a while but he definitely will want to play.” The Villa manager will definitely be wary of Chelsea’s attacking threat and ability on the ball, and as a result he may opt for a defensive 4-5-1 formation as a means of matching Carlo Ancelotti’s men in the middle of the park.

Possible Aston Villa Starting XI

1 Friedel

2 L Young – 24 Cuellar – 29 Collins – 25 Warnock

7 A Young – 8 Milner – 19 Petrov – 4 Sidwell – 6 Downing

11 Agbonlahor

It could be costly playing too defensively against Chelsea, especially if the Midlanders just invite the Blues to attack. Their only hope would be to hit Chelsea on the counter-attack with Ashley Young and Stewart Downing feeding Gabriel Agbonlahor from the flanks. This formation will be too predictable and therefore Carlo Ancelotti’s men will find it easy to contain the Villans. What it is that Villa have to do is match Chelsea in all areas of the pitch and ensure that the game remains an open contest.

1 Friedel

2 L Young – 24 Cuellar – 29 Collins – 25 Warnock

7 A Young – 8 Milner – 19 Petrov – 6 Downing

11 Agbonlahor – 10 Carew

The 4-4-2 formation will give the Villans more to aim for going forward, particularly with John Carew holding up the play, allowing Agbonlahor to play off him as a support-striker. With Villa’s biggest strength being from the wings, putting two upfront will be O’Neill’s best bit if he wants to cause the Chelsea defence problems from wide areas. In terms of defending, Stiliyan Petrov will surely play the holding midfield position, while James Milner could be asked to play more defensively in order to combat the threat of Frank Lampard.

In the past few weeks, Ashley Young has been arguably Villa’s best player and his influence tomorrow could see the Midlanders progress to the final. With the ability to deliver exquisite deliveries into the box, from open play and from set-pieces, Young could be the thorn to the Chelsea defence on Saturday especially with the Blues struggling to defend set-pieces throughout the season. The Villa manager will be hoping that Young will help to provide the assists tomorrow, but from his excellent goal against Bolton last weekend, if given half a yard, Young will be able to test Petr Cech from outside the box. In defence, if Dunne is absent from the Villa back four, James Collins will need to command the back line, providing strength and stability in defence. Along with his other defensive partners, they will need to prevent Chelsea from creating chances on goal and standing their ground when opposition players get through on goal. Stiliyan Petrov and James Milner will need to provide defensive cover to prevent the Blues from playing possession football and disrupt their attacks while Agbonlahor should drop deep always ready to propel Villa forward on the attack.

Losing the Carling Cup Final only amplified their desire to return to Wembley for the FA Cup final and it is this desire that could see the Villans come up top against Chelsea on the weekend.

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