Chelsea-Aston Villa Preview
Aston Villa are doomed.
With relegation all but certain, the once proud club is undergoing an exodus in the hopes of having a short stay outside of the top flight.
After manager Remi Garde's departure, Villa goes for their first victory in almost two months Saturday in the lunchtime kickoff against Chelsea.
Currently 12 points short of safety with seven matches left, hope of salvaging the season and remaining in the Premier League are fading fast for Aston Villa (3-7-21). Losing six straight matches while being outscored 18-2 is all but cementing the Villans' first relegation in the Premier League era.
That was clearly enough for Garde, who parted ways with the club through mutual consent Wednesday after signing a 3 1/2-year contract in November after replacing the sacked Tim Sherwood.
Garde is the latest departure for the moribund club, joining chief executive Tom Fox and sporting director Hendrik Almstadt, who was ousted after chairman Steve Hollis' evaluation.
Adrian Bevington of the FA has been hired in an unspecified capacity, and the club has installed a football board to oversee team matters.
"We've formed a football board, which is rather distinct from the main Board," new board member David Bernstein told the team's official website. "The Football Board will take control of the football side of the club. Mervyn King and I will chair it. Brian Little will be part of that."
While the board's first job will be to find a manager after Eric Black was named caretaker, owner Randy Lerner has drawn the ire of supporters for his lack of investment in the first team.
"We're in a bad position when you look at where the club is," Bernstein said. "When you're at a club that's losing regularly everyone is down and desperate to win. But I think these things are capable of being turned around, sometimes quicker than you think."
That seems unlikely to start Saturday since Villa have been outscored 23-6 while losing seven of their past eight matches with Chelsea (10-11-9). They fell 2-0 at Stamford Bridge on Oct. 17, managing just one shot on target.
The Blues are also 4-1-0 with an 8-2 scoring advantage over their last five road games.
Chelsea may have some sympathy for Villa since they're undergoing major improvement after sacking Jose Mourinho in December. They're unbeaten in 14 league matches (6-8-0) under interim manager Guus Hiddink after drawing West Ham 2-all on March 19.
Hiddink is aiming for European qualification, a proposition that isn't entirely out of the question with Chelsea nine points out of a Europa League spot and 10 back of Champions League with eight matches left.
"First of all we want to get the maximum out of the team regarding the league table, to get the best position possible," Hiddink told the team's official website. "But also we appeal to the players to say 'hey, you are a big club which has had a very difficult season and is recovering step by step. We are unbeaten in the league so far, and when you play as a big club in a difficult situation, you must have pride as well.'"
Diego Costa's cunning and scoring ability will be missed. The forward, who scored in the reverse fixture in October and has eight goals in his last 10 Premier League matches, will complete serving a two-match ban for his red card in the FA Cup quarterfinal loss to Everton on March 12 and a retrospective three-game suspension dating back to his September altercation with Arsenal defender Gabriel.