Early Advantage to Villa in the Relegation Battle
After picking up one point and failing to score in the last three games against West Ham, Cardiff and Newcastle, when most fans would have expected four to seven points, Aston Villa are officially in a relegation battle for the fourth season running. Now, this is normally the time we start to analyse all the potential relegation rivals run-ins and get on the BBC League Predictor (if we could find it!), well, there’s no doubt we’ll get round to that at later date, if Villa continue to under perform and the field thins out a bit, but we’ve noticed a few factors that shouldn’t make this necessary… Here’s some food for thought for the early stages of the relegation picture:
Mackem Safety Belt
The distance to the relegation zone is always judged by distance from the 18th team. At the moment, it is four points, Villa have a two game result cushion from Sunderland. And it’ll remain a minimum of four points until March 15th, as Sunderland with their commitments in both cups, don’t have a league game until then. Then with three games in hand, Sunderland will suddenly face the problem of fixture congestion. If they progress in the FA Cup, this problem will only intensify, just ask Wigan about that. A bit like a cricket innings, Villa will have a couple of home games to get the points to set Sunderland a sizable target to chase. I’ll say it now, if Sunderland finish with more points than Villa this season, it probably mean that Villa will be playing Championship football next term.
Vincent Tan’s Miracle
I can’t see Cardiff surviving. They’ve got to be favourites for the drop. Hull’s 4-0 win away win over Cardiff sums it all up (and puts into perceptive what a poor result Villa had on their visit to Wales). On March 8th, Cardiff host Fulham, basically if either team wants to survive, they probably have to win that game. The loser can kiss the division goodbye.
Is Felix Magath Mad?
Well, he looks it! Magath has set his team a target of six wins to survive. That’s doable with the players they have, but will it be enough? They’ll need a few draws thrown in the mix, as they’d only be on 39 points with those six wins. For starters, they’d have to beat Cardiff in the aforementioned showdown clash in a couple of weeks time. On April 5th, Fulham visit Villa Park, and Lambert’s team will pretty much be presented with the opportunity to send Fulham packing to the relegation exit. Has anybody else noticed the irony that Darren Bent now has a chance to help relegate Villa, after his goals saved us from relegation under Houllier?
Lambert’s Villa Park Trio Trial
The postponement of the March trip to Manchester City is a big blessing for Villa. Norwich (h), Man City (a), Chelsea (h) – is just plain nasty. But Norwich (h), Chelsea (h) and Stoke (h) looks much better. Yes, yes, Villa’s home form is sh**e, but this gives Paul Lambert a three-game Villa Park run to finally sort it out. A ‘Villa Park Triple Trial’, if you will. The Villa boss has a chance to win his critics back by impressing against Chelsea (Mourinho’s record at Villa Park is not too great, not a single win!), and knock out two potential relegation rivals. Villa Park, after tormenting fans for so long, could finally save the day and Villa’s season. Would we be foolish to dream of three home wins? Probably, but lets go for it. Now is the time for Lambert to make up for what’s gone on before at Villa Park. At the very least, he should be bullish and maybe even publicly declare an aim is to now remain unbeaten at Villa Park to the end of the season. Fire up the players and supporters. One inspired performance against Chelsea and the rest is very, very do-able. These next three consecutive homes games can go a long way to helping Villa supporters to start thinking about their summer holidays, rather than wasting thoughts on any relegation nonsense. UTV