I spoke to Chris Bevan of BBC Online yesterday about the prospects for Aston Villa v Chelsea in Saturday’s FA Cup Semi-Final.
Context gives the game unusual interest. Only two weeks ago, Chelsea thumped Villa 7-1.
Scores of that magnitude just don’t happen to top-four candidates like Villa. Just about every other instance of a seven or more goal haul has featured a title candidate against a relegation certainty. Nor do scores of that kind happen to Martin O’Neill. It’s not what being Martin O’Neill is all about – nor is it what employing Martin O’Neill is all about. You can get 7-1 by employing more or less any manager you choose: you bring in O’Neill to prevent it.
What’s more, the game is unusually important for both clubs. Villa really do need to reach Europe directly this season, in order to demonstrate the real on-field progress they have made in the last two years. The top four might be too much, but the FA Cup could be just 180 minutes away. Villa lost at Wembley in the Carling Cup Final, and the players will be desperate to get back. But Chelsea will want to win the double to make up for both the humiliation of Champions League defeat to Jose Mourinho at Inter, and the FA Cup is now every bit as important to the blues players, now on a huge roll, as it is to Villa.
Chris’s post pulls in opinion on the game from far and wide, and includes my views on what options Martin O’Neill is left with against Chelsea. You can read the whole thing here.