MX23RW : Saturday, July 31 23:12:02| >> :60:858:858:
Apr 2, 2016 at 12.45pm UK at Villa Park
Aston Villa
0-4
Chelsea
FT(HT: 0-2)
Loftus-Cheek (26'), Pato (45'), Pedro (46', 59')

Preview: Aston Villa vs. Chelsea

Sports Mole looks ahead to Saturday lunchtime's Premier League encounter between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park.

Two sides that will have hoped for dramatically better campaigns back in August meet at Villa Park on Saturday lunchtime.

Managerless Villa's days as a Premier League club appear to be numbered, while Chelsea have produced one of the meekest defences of a title in recent memory.


Villa

Aston Villa players look dejected during the Premier League game between Aston Villa and Everton on March 1, 2016© Getty Images

As strange as it may sound, most Villa fans will probably feel a sense of relief when their side's relegation is confirmed.

It has been a truly miserable season for everyone of a Villa persuasion, compounded on Tuesday night when the news broke that manager Remi Garde had decided to throw in the towel.

In his 20 Premier League matches at the helm, the Frenchman saw his side win just twice and amass an average of 0.6 points per game - the lowest return in the division's history.

He heads back across the Channel with Villa firmly rooted to the bottom of the table, 12 points from safety and with just seven matches left to play. It is little wonder that the majority of bookmakers have stopped taking bets on the club's demotion.

It is a sorry state of affairs for an outfit that finished sixth three seasons in a row between 2007 and 2010, as well as being just one of five English clubs to have lifted the European Cup.

Names like David Moyes, Nigel Pearson and Mick McCarthy have been linked with the vacancy, but for now Eric Black is the man that has been charged with taking the team forward on an interim basis.

The 52-year-old is no stranger to that role, having previously been the caretaker at Birmingham City, Sunderland, Blackburn Rovers, Wigan Athletic and Rotherham United.

Recent form: LLLLLL


Chelsea

Guus Hiddink wraps up warm during the game between Manchester United and Chelsea on December 28, 2015© Getty Images

Like Black, Guus Hiddink is well aware that he will be replaced in the summer.

The veteran Dutch coach was called upon to carry out some major fire-fighting work back in December, with Chelsea just one point outside of the drop zone.

To Hiddink's credit, he has done just that. Chelsea head to Villa in 10th position and are still unbeaten under the 69-year-old's guidance in the Premier League - six wins and eight draws.

That run was preserved by Cesc Fabregas in the dying embers of the derby with West Ham United last time out. The Spanish playmaker scored an 89th-minute penalty to not only rescue a 2-2 draw for his side, but also carry on his record of having never been on the losing side when he has found the net in a Premier League match (38 games).

Fabregas and his teammates will travel to Birmingham able to boast a positive away record of late, with four wins and two draws from their previous six outings. During that time, they have also shipped only two goals.

On top of that, a victory would be the club's 200th on the road in the Premier League. Only Manchester United (245) and Arsenal (208) have put more on the board.

Recent form: DWWWDD


Team News

Diego Costa mouths off during the Premier League game between Chelsea and Manchester United on February 7, 2016© Getty Images

After yet another flashpoint - this time away at Everton in the FA Cup - Chelsea's main marksman Diego Costa finds himself suspended for this encounter.

Loic Remy failed to make the most of his opportunity versus West Ham, so Hiddink may turn to youngster Bertrand Traore to lead the attack.

A long-standing hip complaint is expected to keep Eden Hazard sidelined, but winger Pedro could come back into contention.

As for Villa, Micah Richards and Jack Grealish may return to the squad following recent injury layoffs, while Armand Traore is also pushing for inclusion following his recovery from a foot problem.

Gabriel Agbonlahor may miss out, though, after he was pictured partying in Dubai earlier this week.

Villa possible starting lineup:
Guzan; Hutton, Richards, Lescott, Cissokho; Veretout, Westwood, Gueye, Gil, Ayew; Gestede

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Mikel, Fabregas; Willian, Oscar, Pedro; Traore


Head To Head

When these two teams met back in October, both had different managers in their respective dugouts.

It was Jose Mourinho's Blues that came out on top against Tim Sherwood's Villa thanks to a strike from the suspended Costa and an Alan Hutton own goal.

It is a fixture that has been dominated by the West Londoners in recent seasons, with seven victories to their name from the last eight meetings.

Villa have beaten Chelsea in front of their own supporters just once since 2009.


The Dugout Podcast

Hit play below to listen to Sports Mole's new podcast 'The Dugout' for our take on the week's biggest football talking points:



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We say: Villa 0-2 Chelsea

Decent performances have been few and far between for Chelsea this term, but they should not need one on Saturday. Villa have been easy meat for most sides since August and it should be a similar story this time around.



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Manager of Ipswich Town Mick McCarthy looks on during the Sky Bet Championship match between Brentford and Ipswich Town at Griffin Park on August 8, 2015
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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
ChinaChina21131246
JapanJapan175830
United StatesUnited States16171346
Olympics flagOlympic Athletes from Russia11151137
AustraliaAustralia1031427
Great BritainGreat Britain891128
Today's Olympic highlights header

Sunday's key events


GOLF
· The men's golf reaches its conclusion, with plenty of players still in medal contention. Home favourite Hideki Matsuyama is one shot off Xander Schauffele's lead, while Great Britain's Paul Casey is another shot further back and Tommy Fleetwood is also in the mix (11.30pm-8am)

CYCLING - BMX
· Great Britain have already made history in the BMX events in Tokyo, something Charlotte Worthington and Declan Brooks will be looking to add to in the women's (2.10am) and men's (3.10am) freestyle finals

SWIMMING
· The final day of swimming action begins with the men's 50m freestyle final. Ben Proud could add to a medal-laden Games in the pool for Team GB so far, although he is up against USA's Caeleb Dressel, who is going for his fourth gold in Tokyo (2.30am)
· From sprint to endurance, Great Britain's second medal hope of the day comes through Daniel Jervis in the men's 1500m freestyle final (2.44am)
· Team GB will again be among the heavy favourites for gold in the last swimming event of the Games - the men's 4x100m medley relay final - having won the mixed event in a world record time on Saturday (3.36am)

BOXING
· Already guaranteed at least a bronze, Pat McCormack takes part in the men's welterweight semi-final against Ireland's Aidan Walsh with a spot in the gold medal final at stake (4.03am)
· Ben Whittaker is also in the semi-finals of the men's light heavyweight and will be looking to continue Team GB's success in the ring (4.51am)

TENNIS
· There will be a surprise on the top of the men's tennis podium after Novak Djokovic missed out on a medal altogether. Alexander Zverev takes on Karen Khachanov in the second match on Centre Court at the Ariake Tennis Park (7am-2pm)

SAILING
· Alison Young will be going for gold in the women's laser radial medal race (7.33am)

ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS
· Team GB's Max Whitlock will look to defend his 2016 Olympic title in the men's pommel horse final (10.41am)

ATHLETICS
· The men's high jump final includes GB's Tom Gale, although his chances of a medal look bleak (11.10am)
· So often the blue-riband event of the Olympics, the men's 100m final takes place as the world's fastest bid to be crowned Usain Bolt's successor. Three Brits have made it into the semi-finals (11.15am-11.32am), and the final looks wide open after an underwhelming display by favourite Trayvon Bromell on Saturday (1.50pm)

HOCKEY
· Great Britain face India in the men's quarter-final (1pm)

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