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Villa In The Way As Chelsea Prepares For Old Trafford Tie

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Chelsea will be put to test again when it hosts Aston Villa in the English Premier League on Saturday, just before it visits Manchester United at the Old Trafford next week. The host lost the league top spot to United after the 1-1 draw at Birmingham on Sunday while United kept the good run with a 2-1 win over Liverpool at the Old Traford.

It was the second week of disappointment for coach Carlos Ancelotti who failed to respond to Jose Mourinho's tactic when Inter met Chelsea at the Stamford Bridge in the Champions League. But he came back perhaps too strongly against Portsmouth on Wednesday as his side returned to the title race with a 5-0 defeat of Pompey at the Fratton Park.

Ancelotti needs such an approach from his side against the Villa side who beat the Blues 2-1 when both sides met for the first time this season on October 17 2009.

With Michael Essien still out injured, Chelsea's midfield is still far from its best and since captain John Terry was involved in sex scandal, the defence has not been as tight as it used to be. But striker Didier Drogba remains a goal machine in the side with 24 goals. He is the second highest goal scorer so far in this season after United striker Wayne Rooney. Drogba will be an important figure today against Villa that has conceded six goals in the past five matches.

Apart from losing 4-2 to Manchester City at the Stamford Bridge on February 27, Chelsea has been formidable at home. It has since beaten Stoke (2-0) and West Ham (4-1) on the ground.

Aston Villa has not lost the last three away matches, beating Wigan and drawing Spurs and Stoke. With 51 points, Villa is in the seventh position and needs a result if not the maximum points from Chelsea to stay in the race for a fourth place finish at the end of the season.

Chelsea visits Manchester United next week, knowing the Old Trafford is not a ground where the league leader misfires often. With the match in mind, Ancelotti needs to pick all it could against Villa before the trip.

Arsenal remains in the race because of its good run since losing 2-0 to Chelsea on February 7.

In the past five matches, the Gunners have not dropped a point, beating West Ham, Hull City, Burnley, Stoke City and Sunderland. They are third in the table and visit Birmingham on Saturday, hoping to keep the pressure on United and Chelsea.

On October 7, Arsenal beat Birmingham 3-1 at the Emirates and has not lost to today's host since 2005. In the past ten matches between both sides, Arsenal has won six times. Niklas Bendtner is out of the match after injuring his ankle against West Ham. Meanwhile Eduardo da Silva returns to the ground where his leg was broken by Birmingham defender, Martin Taylor, in February 2008.

League leader, United, has the easiest of the fixtures involving teams at the top with a visit to Bolton Wanderers. Bolton is 14th in the table but it is still struggling to remain in the Premier League. But despite needing the points from the match against United, on paper, it lacks the strength to stop Rooney and his colleagues.