The Doc's Prognosis: Aston Villa vs Chelsea at Wembley

Sometimes, I wish I were a neutral. For students of the game, this is set up to be very interesting indeed.

The psychology fascinates me: Chelsea have been dumped out of the Champions League by their own Messiah, but have since overwhelmed the champions in their own back yard.


Villa are still smarting from an absolute thumping by the Blues only weeks ago - and will be determined not to let it happen again. Or anything like it.

I think it adds up to a cagey game. Despite the fact that both Villa and Chelsea have pace and skill on both flanks, I can't see either side going for it early on. Villa destroyed United at Wembley in the first 20 minutes of the Carling Cup Final, but couldn't capitalise. Chelsea have perhaps the form player in the Premier League at the moment in Florent Malouda.

But whatever the attacking options both teams posses, I think O'Neill - this time - will set up with a 4-5-1 and play a cautious game; and I think Chelsea will sit back and try to draw Villa's sting. I may end up being wrong - both sides may go for it big time early on - but I tend to the view that it's going to be a dull first half. The game will be won by either a mistake or a moment of genius.

Still, that genius - for all us Villains - must start now in Martin O'Neill's planning of the game.

I'm quite pleased that Richard Dunne is injured. It will force O'Neill to play Carlos Cuellar in central defence and Luke Young at right back - and I think, at least this time, that's a better defensive line-up to face the Blues. Sure, I'd rather have Cuellar and Dunne in the centre, but that option doesn't exist.

Moving on, we just have to play 4-5-1. Gabby must play on the right of midfield to annoy Malouda, make him think twice about getting too far forward, and double up with Luke Young when we're defending. Ashley Young will have to do the same job on the Villa left.

But what we mustn't do is leave wide open spaces in the centre of the field for Frank Lampard to enjoy. Petrov has his qualities, but with Milner looking to link the attack, he can seem desperately isolated and immobile as the only holding midfielder. I think he should play as a "free" anchorman in front of the back four, with Steve Sidwell man-marking and tracking Lampard.

Why Sidwell? This is Wembley. Sidwell has experience and a cooler head than Delph - who could land us in trouble early on with just a couple of mis-timed challenges. Petrov sits, Sidwell marks, Milner runs and links. Downing sits on the bench, for my money.

And what about the strikers? The Fonz should definitely be on the bench, and I think should be planned to enter the fray at 70 minutes. He's positive, quick and will enjoy the space that will open up at that stage of the game.

But Heskey or Carew as the lone striker? I've no idea. You tell me. Both can look equally disinterested and lazy, and if I had my way they'd both be shipped out for players with greater urgency, desire and commitment.

If Carew wants it and is in the zone - I'd play him. If Emile wants it and is in the zone, I'd play him. It'll come down to managerial judgement - and one thing I don't know is what's going down on the training field.

My prognosis?

It'll be tight. Neither team will look to batter the other early on, and a goal in the last twenty minutes will settle it.

I think that goal will be scored by Chelsea, because I think their menace will grow throughout the game, whereas ours will fade.

I hope that isn't the case. And I think we have the players to prove me wrong if they want it enough.

Go on lads, prove me wrong.