Saturday’s game between Aston Villa and Chelsea has now taken a totally different complexion following Stiliyan Petrov’s devastating news that he has been diagnosed with acute leukaemia.
Aston Villa announced on Friday afternoon that Petrov has been diagnosed with acute leukaemia. The condition was identified following tests after the Bulgaria international, 32, developed a fever following Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Arsenal.
Ahead of the game the official Chelsea Twitter page had this reaction to the news that has rocked football: “Everyone at Chelsea wishes Stiliyan Petrov a full recovery. We’re thinking of him and his family.”
Villa, who have struggled for a home won of late, now have something extra special to play for tomorrow, the honour of their stricken captain. There has been a lack of togetherness at Villa Park in recent times, with disgruntled fans lodging protests against the manager Alex McLeish, and this could be the spark they needed to pull the squad together and finish strong towards the end of the season. Villa are only eight points clear of the relegation zone and they will be desperate to turn up and put on a performance for Petrov.
But for Chelsea it is yet another must win game in their pursuit of Champions League football next season. God only knows what owner Roman Abramovich’s reaction will be if his team misses out on competing in Europe’s elite competition. The Blues lay five points behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur and have a slightly inferior goal difference so any sort of win would be crucial.
And Newcastle United cannot be discounted either in the Europe scenario. The Magpies are also on 50 points so any slip-up from the West Londoners could see them drop out of the European places altogether.
It was a big game before, but with the news about Petrov it is sure to be a crackling atmosphere at Villa Park and the players are sure to be fired up for the occasion. Football is often impossible to predict at the best of times but with the home side roared on by an emotional Aston Villa faithful, Chelsea must be on their guard to avoid a costly slip.
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