Aston Villa v Chelsea: Blues will have to fight for top four spot

Thomas Tuchel Chelsea boss
Thomas Tuchel hopes to lead Chelsea into the Champions League

Paul Higham says Aston Villa could give Chelsea a hard time as the Blues fight for a top four spot, with Jack Grealish set to star at Villa Park...

"Fans at Villa Park and no pressure on the hosts will ensure Villa play well, and with no Kante, Grealish will have room to move and Watkins can take advantage by adding to his impressive goal tally."

Ollie Watkins to score in Villa v Chelsea @ 4.03/1

Aston Villa v Chelsea
Sunday 23 May, 16:00 kick-off
Live on Sky Sports

Vast improvement from Villa

What a contrast this final day of the Premier League is compared with last year for Aston Villa, who stayed up by the skin of their teeth last season but have been largely untroubled this year and even flirted with Europe at times.

Dean Smith's side have won 15 league games this season compared with nine last term, and although they can go no higher than 11th in the table, they'll play with freedom and intensity, especial Jack Grealish who is back from injury and looking to cement his England place.

Villa got a draw at Stamford Bridge earlier this season and, despite losing 10 of the last 12 against the Blues, they'll be ready to take advantage of any nerves from the visitors as they chase a top four spot.

They haven't won a final day league game since 2011 so you could say they're due one, and they're certainly a different animal with Grealish in the side - as they showed in their win at Spurs during the week. Having their home fans back will also be a huge boost.

Blues still need a win for top four

That win against Leicester was monumental for Thomas Tuchel's side, but it hasn't changed their final day needs that much as they need three points to be sure of banking a top four spot with the Foxes and Liverpool lurking just a point behind.

Chelsea have won on their last three visits to Villa Park and have just one defeat in their last nine final day games, while under Tuchel they're unbeaten on the road in the league with six wins and two draws, so they'll be confident of finishing off the job.

You never know what impact the impending Champions League final will have on them - it is already set to mean N'Golo Kante will not be risked after his hamstring problem, and his energy in midfield will be a big miss.

Tuchel admits he'll have an eye on the Liverpool and Leicester games if things are tight towards the end of the game, but he'll hope his side can get the job done nice and early and relax.

Blues to rely on defensive record

Chelsea are unsurprisingly favourites for the win at 1.444/9 with Villa a big price at 6.511/2 given they'll have 10,000 fans behind them and no pressure whatsoever on them. The draw is 4.67/2 but hard to see unless Chelsea are fully aware that's all they need in the closing stages.

Aston Villa's last nine league games have averaged over three goals a game, but scoring has been a bit of an issue for Chelsea with Jorginho still their top Premier League scorer with seven this season - all of them penalties.

Chelsea's chances will rest with their defence, which has allowed just four goals in their eight-game unbeaten away run without conceding more than one goal in any of those.

They've kept three clean sheets in their last five Premier League away games and recorded six wins to nil from their 10 away victories this season.

Chelsea to win to nil here is 2.6313/8 while Chelsea and under 2.5 goals is 4.03/1 and that is how Tuchel would like the game to go given how they usually approach away games.

Grealish and Watkins to cause problems

If Tuchel knows his stats then perhaps Olivier Giroud will get a run-out given he's scored in his last seven games against Villa, with nine goals in total. Sadly the bookies have access to these stats too as Giroud is the 1.9110/11 favourite in the anytime goalscorer market.

Chelsea's defensive unit is excellent, but without Kante in midfield Grealish will become much more of a factor, and that makes both teams to score come squarely into focus at 1.758/11.

Grealish to score himself is a tempting 5.59/2 but he could turn provider for Ollie Watkins, who is playing for an England place himself and his anytime goalscorer price of 4.03/1 really appeals.

Watkins has 14 Premier League goals this season, a superb return for the former Brentford man, and his pace and energy will really give Chelsea problems.

I'd still fancy Chelsea to get the job done, leading to a Blues win and both teams to score being the preferred outright result bet at 3.185/40 but there's certainly enough doubt to be worried.

And Villa will not make it easy for them.

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