Later today, Tammy Abraham returns to Aston Villa. Oh, how I wish this blog title was about Tammy Abraham’s return to Aston Villa to wear claret and blue. Last season Tammy quickly found a place in many Villa fans heart’s, and it is easy to see why. Villa won promotion to the Premier League and I will be forever grateful to him for his contribution. Without his goals, Villa would still be in the Championship.
But it was not just his goals, it was so many other things too. He wore the Villa shirt with pride always giving 110% on the pitch. However, Tammy wasn’t just a goal scorer, he was regularly found back defending set pieces and corners successfully. Always playing the game with a smile on his face he looked like he really enjoyed playing for Aston Villa. In the January transfer window, he refused a move up to the Premier League with Wolves to stay at Villa. Earlier this season, in our away fixture to Chelsea, Tammy scored against us and refused to celebrate. This showed a lot about the man’s character, and if he had taken the move to Wolves, we would still be in the Championship. So thank you, Tammy Abraham, you are a Villa hero.
Sunday afternoon at Villa Park
It is Sunday today, and we have the late afternoon kickoff against Chelsea. This usually is my favourite kickoff time of the week. It is when I put dinner in the oven and pop down to the local with the Mrs for a few pints and to watch Aston Villa on TV. After the game, we are home by 7:30pm, have a nice dinner and asleep by about 10:30pm. Today will be different but still a few drinks and a nice dinner to accompany Aston Villa hosting Chelsea at Villa Park.
Watching the behind closed door game against Sheffield on TV was very different. After switching channels a few times, I ended up watching the game with the canned crowd noise in the background. I didn’t expect to like it, but Sky did a reasonable job, and there was more atmosphere than watching the silent Villa Park channel. So later on today I will have a beer, a lamb shank with gravy and mash and some canned noise on TV. Not quite as good as going to the pub but I will still enjoy it. And as it is Father’s day, I would like the added bonus of a good result for Villa.
Tammy Abraham returns
Frank Lampard has some world-class players to choose from, so regardless of what team we face, it is safe to say Chelsea will be no pushover. Tammy Abraham returns to Villa Park, and I expect him to lead the line. No doubt he will be keen to impress Lampard with Chelsea having just signed Timo Werner. Jorginho has effectively left Chelsea. He is serving a suspension and following that I understand he is signing for Roma and is refusing to sign a short term contract extension. Kante is rumoured to be injured, so there is possibly a little weakness for Smith to exploit. As mentioned above, no Chelsea team will be weak and we will be up against a quality side.
Smith’s team selection
After my team prediction against The Blades, I feel I would have more success randomly throwing darts at pictures of our players trying to predict Smith’s starting 11. Just thinking, maybe that’s how Smith did it? Above all, the critical decision for me is who Smith starts upfront; Samatta or Davis. With only 4 goals from 58 appearances for Villa, it is fair to say Keinan Davis is hardly prolific. This is a genuinely awful return and should restrict a Premier League striker to the bench or the reserves. Actually, with that level of scoring, you should not even be a Premier League striker. However, Davis played really well against Sheffield Utd, and I believe he deserves to keep the shirt. However, I would like to see Smith bring on Samatta as a substitute to play alongside Davis as opposed to replacing Davis.
Our defence is going to have to cope with Tammy’s Abraham’s return to Villa Park. We kept a clean sheet against Sheffield, so the straightforward logic suggests we stick with the same defensive unit. This would be wrong as in my opinion I think Nyland needs to be replaced in goal. I don’t really mind which of Reina or Steer starts but when push comes to shove I would probably opt for Reina. The reason being I believe Reina has better distribution, and he has that extra bit of experience.
Made in Egypt at Villa Park
When Villa visited Chelsea earlier in the season, we went behind in the 24th minute to a header from that Villa hero, Tammy Abraham. However, in the 41st minute, we drew level with a goal made in Egypt. Elmo with a delightful cross and Trezeguet used his pace to beat his defender and slot the ball past Kepa. This was the Premier League’s first-ever goal scored by an Egyptian with the assist from a fellow Egyptian. I am sure Nassef Sawiris, our Egyptian owner, enjoyed that goal.
Against Sheffield, we were the better team, but we failed to score, and this ultimately cost us 2 valuable points. I appreciate that Davis is not finding the net too often, but I think he was unlucky to come up against Dean Henderson. Our biggest weakness on Wednesday evening came from our wide players. We need a little more of the ‘Made In Egypt’ against Chelsea and for that reason I would like to see Elmo and Trezeguet given a start. This would give us a little more attacking flair and at the same time, strengthen our defence; with Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham return to Aston Villa, our defenders will need to be on their game.
The Villa starting 11
This is not my first choice Villa starting 11, my preference would be to see Guilbert, Engels and Samatta start. Obviously, McGinn is key to our survival and he must start every game as we need his drive to stay up. But this is a starting 11 of players that is fit and available which I think is somewhat along the lines of what Smith may pick.
Smith v Lampard
With three wins last season Dean Smith clearly had the upper hand over Frank Lampard. Our two league games finished 3-0 and 4-0 to The Villa which helped us to secure our playoff place. At the time of playing these games, we were not expected to win, let alone get those type of results. Then May 27th arrived which resulted in Villa beating Derby in the richest game in world football, and again, Dean Smith emerged with the plaudits. A 2-1 league win earlier this season gave Frank revenge but that was with a Chelsea team and at Stamford Bridge.
The clean sheet on Wednesday will have given Villa a little boost in confidence which needs to be taken into the head to head with Lampard. Importantly, we have experienced a competitive game played in an empty stadium while Chelsea has not. I am not suggesting that this game will be straightforward or that we should be getting points from it, but there is a little hope. For this reason, I am going for a 1-1 draw and a very well earned point for Aston Villa. A point will not be enough to move us up the league, but we would be level on points with those above us.
Yesterday away from Villa Park
Villa’s Premier League status next season is not just about our results, it is also about our relegation rivals. Finishing above 3 other teams is our objective regardless of whether this is by goal difference or points clear, it doesn’t really matter. We are now back to the position where we have played a game less than our relegation rivals. Not really a game in hand as we are playing Chelsea later today in the same game week but still an opportunity we should be looking to exploit.
So the question is, how did the other results impact Villa’s survival? Watford’s late equaliser didn’t help, but the 2 point gap between us remains the same since the restart. However, Brighton coming from behind and taking 3 points in the 95th minute was a bit of a sickener. However, If any team was to pick up 3 points, I would have picked Brighton as they are top of the 6 team relegation mini-league.
The ones that went Villa’s way
Norwich, West Ham and Bournemouth each lost comprehensively, and each is looking like Championship contenders. Irrespective of the result against Chelsea, we have closed or extended the gap on all 3 teams. This is precisely what Villa needed to do, and more game weeks like this will keep us in the Premier League.
I have tried to summarise the Relegation Mini-League below showing the points gained in each game week. Looking at the Total Points Gained there are 3 teams below us, we are joint 2nd with The Hammers on points won, and we still have a game to play. If you offered me that before the restart, I would have happily accepted.
The important stuff
TV Channel: SkySports Main Event
Aston Villa & Chelsea team announcements on avfcvillablog.com: 3:15pm (UK), 7:15am (Vancouver)
Program start on Sky: 4:00pm (UK), 8:00am (Vancouver)
Kick-off: 4:15pm (UK), 8:15am (Vancouver)
Result Prediction: 1-1
Match Odds: Aston Villa 9/2, Draw 10/3, Chelsea 8/15
Relegation Odds: Norwich 1/33, Villa 4/11, Bournemouth 4/7, West Ham 15/8, Watford 5/2, Brighton 8/1