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Semifinal Serenity

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Posted by Kirsten

Sorry we’ve gone quiet—we’re working on transferring the blog to a different platform, so look for exciting changes coming soon!

But first, Aston Villa have some excitement of their own. Saturday they hit the pitch at Wembley for the second time this season (sadly enough, I won’t be there for this match). And as we all know, in this semi-final tie we must face Chelsea once more. With the disastrous meeting at Stamford Bridge a fortnight ago, The Blues wiped from our memories October’s 2-1 victory and left us confused, angry and shaken. In the aftermath, many of us realized that March’s final game was an anomaly, an unraveling of a young team that had been trying to hold it together for too long and had a bit of a mental breakdown. Unfortunately, others, including media outlets, took the week after the Chelsea fiasco to spread rumours about our manager, our owner and one of our stars. During that time, we took a break from writing, not wanting to give any credence to the ridiculous gossip.

Last week we were at Reebok Stadium, where we slammed the door on our accursed March with a 0-1 win over Bolton. The scoreline doesn’t reflect the fact that our team finally looked again like the Villa who had been competing for a top four slot. Yes, Gabby still looks a little out of sorts, but it seems more like he is rusty from a lack of recent starts, and he came very close at least twice. And yes, our midfield was less spicy without James running around. But Delph is coming into himself and finding more confidence on the pitch. And Ash! Although commentators seized on the fact that he hadn’t scored in eight games, he’s been in on the assists, feeding crosses that are just barely poked in by his teammates. But last Saturday the glory was all his as he slid a gorgeous kick past the Bolton defence and straight on to the net. Ashley Young is becoming a threatening presence on any pitch, especially since most opponents still underestimate his skills.

On most nights before a match, I’m nervous. I toss and turn, tangling myself up in my Villa t-shirt. Before the Carling Cup final, I forced myself to stay busy the entire day, and found solace in a few pints to distract myself through the evening. But there’s no anxiety surrounding this important fixture. Chelsea has seen us at our worst. What more could happen? Can we lose 9-1? The fear has dissipated. Our team is healthy and fairly rested. James Milner’s Achilles strain has healed enough, and MON has said that he’s confident Richard Dunne will be playing as well (although I will still offer up prayers and by God if he needs me to kiss it better I will hop on a plane). Obviously Chelsea is still Chelsea, top of the league and ready to dominate. But our confidence is coming back. We’ve beaten Chelsea this season, and we’ve already been at Wembley. Villa won’t allow themselves to be overwhelmed on Saturday. They’re ready to show everyone that they are formidable opponents—and that next season, everyone will be worried about the Villa.