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Michael Taylor 20th Feb 2009 - 15:51

Chelsea can nick points from Villans

Guus Hiddink takes charge of Chelsea for the first time on Saturday knowing that a loss to Aston Villa would put the Blues a massive five points behind the Villans as the race for Champions League football starts heating up.

And while Russia's national team boss would have wished for a slightly easier start to his Premier League management career he can take solace in the fact that top Russian side CSKA Moscow gave Villa a work-out in midweek that could hinder their title charge.

It could be enough to give Chelsea a little glimmer of hope and, as Hiddink has shown throughout his extraordinary career, there is no better exponent of turning tiny chances into incredible success - see South Korea World Cup 2002 for details.

The key to success is likely to be pinpointing what has gone so badly wrong at Stamford Bridge in recent months, whether it be a lack of creativity, pace, defensive strength, goal threats...the list could go on for paragraphs.

The most obvious thing is, Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka need to start up front together and find a way to make it work. Scolari's policy of leaving one of his star strikers on the bench each week was crazy especially if you consider they are both amongst the best in the world.

Drogba in particular has come out and criticised the recently departed Scolari this week and at 6/1 to score the first goal of the game he looks a great bet to back up his words and produce a performance of old.

The Ivorian has been quiet (on the pitch) all season but he is a class act and will bounce back, and it could be Aston Villa who are made to suffer for months of frustration.

It isn't just the attack that Hiddink needs to work on though; the problems have even spread to John Terry and Petr Cech, arguably the best players for their positions in the world, as the Blues' once impenetrable defence now resembles a Keanu Reeves movie - great to look at but ultimately lacking in class.

This hasn't been helped by the on-going injury troubles of Ricardo Carvalho who, for my money, has been Chelsea's most consistent defender since Mourinho shelled out just under £20million for him.

And once again Carvalho is unfit to take part against Villa, meaning Terry will be partnered at the back by one of Alex, Ivanovic or Mancienne - none of whom would ever be considered world class.

However, against Villa's tired legs I can see the Blues managing to keep their first clean sheet away from Stamford Bridge since a 0-0 draw at Everton in December. You can get 13/8 about Chelsea not conceding in the game.

Along with the possibility of aching legs, Martin O'Neill's Villa know they have to change their recent fortunes at home in which they have failed to impose themselves on anyone.

With the pace Villa has through Gabby Agbonlahor, Ashley Young and James Milner, they are always going to be a threat on the counter attack. They now need to work out how to break down teams that come to defend - unfortunately this is what Chelsea excel at.

It is difficult to imagine this being an open game but sadly for Villa I think their nine game unbeaten streak at home to Chelsea is going to fall one short of double figures.

Chelsea are available at 6/5 to take all three points, with the home side at 23/10 and the draw also at 23/10, and although Villa do look great value I believe Chelsea may just edge it.

It should be close and tense and I can see the score reflecting that as I fancy Chelsea to win 1-0 which is priced at 11/2.

But while Martin O'Neill continues to wave his wand and inspire his team, you can not fully rule out the Villans stealing the headlines away from Hiddink's grand entrance.

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