Norwich City travel to Villa Park on Sunday to take on Aston Villa in a bottom half of the table clash. The two teams are on the same amount of points and are only separated in league position by goal difference.
Aston Villa did not have a good February and find themselves only four points above the relegation zone. The Villans lost three times and drew once, which has seen them slide down the table. That leaves them with only one league win in their last seven games, a record that they will need to turn around quickly if they are to guarantee survival. Norwich also had a tough time in February as they lost twice and drew once before securing an excellent 1-0 victory against Spurs. That win has moved them further away from danger and three points against Villa will push them even further in the right direction up the table.
Villa are without a number of players going into the fixture. Libor Kozak (Broken Leg). Charles N’Zogbia (Shin) and Jores Okore (Knee) will all be unfit for the fixture. Ashley Westwood and Chris Herd face late fitness tests after suffering from thigh and hamstring injuries respectively. Ryan Betrand will return after illness. Grant Holt will be in the squad to face his old club for the first time since his departure in the summer. Norwich have a few players who will also miss the game. Jonas Gutierrez (Calf), Michael Turner (Hamstring), Elliot Bennett (Knee) and Leroy Fer (Hamstring) will all be missing. Ryan Bennett could return to the squad after being out with a thigh injury.
When the two teams last met in September, Aston Villa triumphed 1-0 thanks to a Libor Kozak goal. Kozak will not be able to help them to a similar result as he is out for the rest of the season with a broken leg. Villa have traditionally done well against Norwich in the Premier League, and they have lost only one in their last eleven league games against the Canaries. Villa have not lost a game at home to Norwich since the very first Premier League season in 1992. Norwich’s last win against Villa was 2-0 win in May 2012. Grant Holt was on the score sheet for the Canaries that day and he will line up against his former club if selected by Villa.
Gabriel Agbonlahor is Villa’s longest serving player and has experienced fighting for Champions League spots and fighting relegation during his tenure. Although this has not been his best campaign goal scoring wise, Agbonlahor has emerged as a leader and has scored important goals and provided assists for his team. Of his three goals this season, two of them have won Swansea points including the solitary goal in a1-0 against Sunderland. Agbonlahor was also influential in his team’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool, contributing both assists for the goals. He also managed to contribute the assist for Libor Kozak’s goal in the last fixture between the two. In his five games against Norwich, Agbonlahor has managed three goals and three assists. With the games becoming more and more important towards the end of the season, Agbonlahor will again need to step up to the plate for his side.
Robert Snodgrass has not had the best of seasons for Norwich this season. After a fantastic first season for the Canaries where he managed six goals and six assist, Snodgrass has found his second season more difficult. Snodgrass has created 24 chances from open play, only four less than the 28 he created last season. But of these 24, only four of these have been clear-cut, compared to the 16 clear-cut chances he created last campaign. It is that lack of incisiveness that has deserted the winger this season. The Scotland international has managed three goals and only one assist so far this campaign. His one assist was an incisive one as it came in a 1-0 win against Hull. In last week’s game against Tottenham, Snodgrass scored the all-important goal to give Norwich all three points. It is this performance he needs to build on in the coming games. With the goals of Gary Hooper having dried up of late, Snodgrass will have to take responsibility in an attempt to secure Norwich’s Premier League safety.
With both teams trying to distance themselves from the relegation zone, it will be a tense and tight affair. Both managers will have no problem with a point, but three points will move them both even closer to safety. Aston Villa’s strong record at Villa Park against the Canaries will give them a boost but they have only won one home game in their last nine. Norwich’s win against Spurs should give them the confidence to believe they can get a positive result out of this game. Their problem has been scoring goals, as they have only scored three in their last eight games. If they can overcome this, they will have a good a chance. A 1-1 draw is my prediction for this fixture.