We, or at least I, need to thank Friend of the Program Ryan Noel for his invaluable assistance in the creation of this post; he truly is the wind beneath my wings. Translation: I don't know shit about soccer and I called upon a friend to help me out. Thanks, Ryan!
Match of the Week: Chelsea @ Aston Villa
When/Where: 0730 EST, Setanta Sports
Storyline: Chelsea is entering its first Premier League game with temporary manager Guus Hiddink at the helm. Aston Villa is looking to continue its surprising run to a Champions League spot, with a win pushing them 5 points clear of 4th place Chelsea.
Players to Watch: Gareth Barry (Villa) - the Villa holding midfielder is having a strong run of form, helping the Villains to 349 consecutive Premiership minutes without conceding a goal.
Didier Drogba or Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea) - the Chelsea hitmen have struggled to find the net since the turn of the year, with Chelsea failing to score in 3 of their last 4 road games.
Outlook: Chelsea are struggling desperately on the road, while Villa have been imperious in front of net over their recent run of Premier League games. Chelsea might gain inspiration from new manager Hiddink, especially if he elects to start Drogba and Anelka together up top. Villa hope to get England international Emile Heskey back to action, further cementing his partnership with young Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Terry, Mancienne, Ferreira, Lampard, Ballack, Mikel, Kalou, Drogba, Anelka
Aston Villa: Friedel, Luke Young, Davies, Knight, Shorey, Ashley Young, Petrov, Barry, Milner, Heskey, Agbonlahor
Deadspin Pub Prediction: Aston Villa 2, Chelsea 0
Here are your top matches of the weekend:
English Premier League
• Chelsea at Aston Villa (Saturday): 4th place at 3rd place - enough said.
• Manchester City at Liverpool (Sunday): Liverpool host the enigmatic Blues in their bid to keep pace with leaders Manchester United.
• Espanyol at Barcelona (Saturday): The Barcelona city derby pits the league leaders against the bottom-dwellers. Derbies are always feisty.
Italian Serie A
• Juventus at Palermo (Saturday): Juve striker Amauri returns to his old stadium, La Favorita, for the first time this season.
• Cagliari at AC Milan (Sunday): Beckham should be fit to face the in-form Rossoblu.
French Ligue 1
• Olympique Lyon at AS Nancy Lorraine (Saturday): The league leaders look to widen the gap against mid-table Nancy.
• Paris St. Germain at Grenoble (Saturday): PSG look to keep pace with Lyon with a road victory at Grenoble.
• FC Cologne at Bayern Munich (Saturday): "FC Hollywood" have slipped to 4th, but a win at Cologne temporarily sees them atop the league.
• Hertha Berlin at VFL Wolfsburg: The surprise league leaders leave Berlin for the Volkswagen Arena to take on 6th place Wolfsburg.
Bonus: Americans Abroad this Weekend:
• Borussia Mönchengladbach v. Hannover 96: Michael Bradley leads 'Gladbach against Steve Cherundolo's Hannover team. Sal Zizzo is not expected to dress for Hannover.
• Bayern Munich v. FC Cologne: Landon Donovan stands a chance at starting for Munich as Luca Toni is struggling with an achilles injury.
• Aston Villa v. Chelsea: Brad Friedel will start in goal with understudy Brad Guzan on the bench.
• Bolton Wanderers v. West Ham United: Jonathan Spector is expected to be dressed and on the bench for the Hammers.
• Rangers v. Kilmarnock: Demarcus Beasley and Maurice Edu are both coming off strong Scottish Cup showings and could both see signifcant time in this SPL matchup.
• Nice v. Stade Rennes: Carlos Bocanegra anchors the Rennes left-side against mid-table Nice.
• Pachuca v. Ciudad Juarez: Jose Francisco Torres leads league-leaders Pachuca against 5th place Juarez.