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Friday, 19 May, 2000, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
Wembley braced for impressive finale

FA Cup final - Chelsea v Aston Villa
Wembley, 1500 BST

Chelsea and Aston Villa will be vying for an historic title when they take the field at Wembley on Saturday - the last team to win the FA Cup trophy beneath the famous Twin Towers.

The match is the final FA Cup clash at the ground before it is torn down to make way for a new redeveloped national stadium.

Nobody seems to forgive us anything at Chelsea, but I don't think we've done much wrong

Blues boss Gianluca Vialli
For Chelsea, the match represents one last chance of glory, with victory securing a place in next season's Uefa Cup.

Should Gianluca Vialli's team of multi-national stars lift the trophy, they will end the season on a high note, after a series of setbacks.

The disappointment of letting a 3-1 first leg lead against Barcelona slip in the Champions League quarter-final - resulting in a 6-4 aggregate defeat - was a bitter blow for the London club.

Chelsea were humiliated by Barcelona in the Champions League
And their failure to land a top three Premiership place and with it a coveted berth in the Champions League next season prompted the usually affable Vialli to make disparaging remarks about some of his indolent employees.

"It's important for me to realise which of my players want to stay at the club, to give their best and make the club successful," Vialli said after Chelsea's 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford.

Quite simply, the final is a must-win game for Chelsea if they are to avoid ending the season empty-handed.

"Of course we need to win," Viallis said. "But I think this has already been a successful season in two competitions."

Villa happy as underdogs

Vialli's team will start as favourites on Saturday but Villa boss John Gregory is happy to wear the underdog tag.

"Being underdogs will suit us," Gregory said.

"We are a much better side when we have to rise to the occasion. Starting as favourites in the semi-finals against Bolton was a hindrance."

Like us Chelsea have a tight defence - we both give very little away

Villa manager John Gregory
Gregory paid tribute to Chelsea's 'success' even though it may not be enough to satisfy Vialli.

"I still feel that although we are equipped for the Premiership, Chelsea are designed for the Premiership and Europe," he said.

"Apart from one result (away to Barcelona), they excelled in Europe this season, whereas when we were in the Uefa Cup last year, we were out of our depth and outclassed by Spain's Celta Vigo.

"Like us Chelsea have a tight defence - we both give very little away - but draw too many games. The difference is that they can really produce when it matters, like when they beat Manchester United 5-0."

Ian Taylor has since recovered from his hamstring injury
Gregory's comments smack of mind games and there can be no doubt that come kick-off on Saturday his Villa players will have had their egos similarly massaged.

Dutch defender Mario Melchiot is on standby for Chelsea with Spaniard Albert Ferrer struggling with an ankle injury, while Gregory has some decisions to make about his midfield.

Ian Taylor returned for the final Premiership game last Sunday after six weeks out with a hamstring injury to stake a claim for a place.

And Steve Stone and defender Steve Watson resumed training last weekend following injuries and Gregory believes that even they could make Saturday's squad.

Fans' favourite Taylor appeared as a second-half substitute last weekend and Gregory said: "He's got another six days, which will mean a hell of a lot to him to get a little bit more fitness back and make sure that hamstring stays strong."

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See also:

13 May 00 | FA Cup
Roads to Wembley
13 May 00 | FA Cup
Aston Villa squad guide
13 May 00 | FA Cup
Chelsea squad guide
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