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Soccer-Villa benefit as Bertrand joins Chelsea's loan army

Reuters

(Recasts, adds details, byline)

By Martyn Herman

LONDON, Jan 17 (Reuters) - With Romelu Lukaku and Lucas Piazon up front, Oriol Romeu and Marko Marin in midfield and a defence now bolstered by Ryan Bertrand, a Chelsea "loaned out" eleven would arguably be challenging at the top end of the Premier League.

Bertrand, who played at left back in Chelsea's Champions League final win over Bayern Munich in 2012, became Chelsea's 23rd player to be shipped out when he joined Aston Villa for the rest of the season on Friday.

The 24-year-old has found his opportunities limited with Cesar Azpilicueta and Ashley Cole ahead of him in the Stamford Bridge pecking order but will no doubt stroll into a Villa side still too close to the relegation zone.

"It's a fantastic opportunity for me to come here. Aston Villa is a fantastic club with a massive fanbase and a great history," Bertrand told Villa's website.

"To get this chance to come here and play some games will be a really good step for me."

It is a familiar story at Chelsea and other Premier League heavyweights who sometimes have three international quality players vying for one position.

Belgium international Lukaku has scored nine goals for Everton, his second loan club after an equally good spell at West Bromwich Albion, while Brazilian teenager Piazon is scoring goals for fun at Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem.

Spaniard Romeu, signed by Chelsea from Barcelona in 2011, is producing strong displays while on loan at Valencia while Marin, once described as the "German Lionel Messi" has thrived at Sevilla where he is on a season-long loan.

Lukaku's international team mate Thibaut Courtois, rated as one of the best young goalies in the world, is also in Spain, enjoying a superb season with La Liga high flyers Atletico Madrid but is likely to return as Petr Cech's deputy.

Piazon, like several other Chelsea loanees, was signed with the future in mind before being farmed out to Vitesse, the chief beneficiaries of Chelsea's forward-thinking transfer policy.

He has scored 11 goals in 21 appearances for Vitesse, helping them to joint top in the Eredivisie.

Ghana striker Christian Atsu, signed by Chelsea from Porto, is also at Vitesse, as are midfielders Cristian Cuevas from Chile and Burkina Faso international Bertrand Traore and Dutch defender Patrick van Aanholt.

While Chelsea fans occasionally question the merit of laoning out players of the quality of Lukaku, some even suggesting the club are using him as a stealth weapon against their title rivals, Villa boss Paul Lambert is grateful.

"Ryan brings a lot of big-game experience, not only in the Premier League but even a Champions League final which Chelsea won, so he'll be really good for us," he told Villa's website.

"We're grateful to Chelsea for allowing him to come here on loan and we know he'll be really good to work with."

Mourinho said he sympathised with Bertrand, admitting he is too good to languish in the reserves.

"He's a good player, a young player and he needs to play," Mourinho said. "At this moment, my options at left-back are Ashley Cole and Cesar Azpilicueta, so for Ryan we felt, and he agrees totally, that he needs to play." (Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by John O'Brien and Justin Palmer)

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