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Friday, 19 May, 2000, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK
Villa could prompt Blues break-up
villa
Aston Villa could be smiling on Saturday
BBC Football pundit Mark Lawrenson looks ahead to Saturday's FA Cup final and predicts victory for Aston Villa.

This game may well mark the break-up of the Chelsea squad as we know it.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Aston Villa will win, despite the on-paper superiority of Gianluca Vialli's side.

Chelsea are under pressure. They have to win to qualify for Europe, after promising so much this season with such a heavyweight squad, and that may work against them.



We all know Chelsea are not great when it comes to playing with width

Mark Lawrenson
If I'm right and it is Villa for the Cup, then what an irony it is they started their run against the lucky losers, Darlington, who were allowed back into the competition because Manchester United's non-entry threw out the draw.

Villa are very good defensively, with those three solid central defenders flanked by wing-backs who funnel back to form a back five at a moment's notice.

We all know Chelsea are not great when it comes to playing with width so Villa's formation will invite them, even more than usual, to try and play through the middle.

If Chelsea are bang on top of their game, that's what they are best at; but if not, I can see Villa giving them problems.

Vialli has got to play Poyet and he's got to play Flo. Chelsea's line-up is never certain and Poyet, after scoring twice in the FA Cup semi-final against Newcastle, was left out in the Champions League quarter-final in Barcelona.

But these guys are Chelsea's greatest hope of goals and should be linked with Zola, playing centrally.

The likes of Southgate and Ehiogu are too used to playing against Sutton to be troubled by the former Blackburn man when he's off the pace to boot. Zola's so much better at drawing defenders out of position.

All change for Blues

Even if Chelsea win the FA Cup, and you look at their season and say Cup winners, Champions League quarter-finalists and fifth in the Premiership must represent success, the team will surely be drastically changed this summer.

The accent seems to be buying British or British types.


Petrescu
The final could be Dan Petrescu's last for Chelsea
Vialli is man enough to admit if he needs to rebuild. And since the players he will have left have sufficient quality, then a successful summer in the transfer market can mean Chelsea maintaining their place as top-three contenders next season.

The short-term fix of buying thirty-somethings from the top of the European game was all about winning trophies instantly.

This Wembley final could be the end of the Premiership road for the likes of Deschamps, Leboeuf and Petrescu.

A Villa win, however, would not necessarily mark the beginning of greater times for the Midlanders.

They are a big club, in support, name and history but, should Southgate lift the Cup on Saturday, they would still not feature in a straw poll of England's four biggest clubs.

Nevertheless, it would represent an achievement in itself.

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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