These two teams head into this game with just five points separating them in the league table but one is considered a relegation candidate and the other is sitting happily in tenth position. Aston Villa are the side currently sitting in tenth position with a decent 27 points – although there is little chance that they could go higher with Southampton way up the road on 35 points. West Ham on the other hand are struggling despite winning their last game against Swansea City – Andy Carroll was the catalyst that day with two headed assists but the Hammers must do without him for this tie with his red card souring a positive performance. Sam Allardyce’s side will have to find inspiration from another source if they’re to drag Villa back into the relegation scrap.
Gabriel Agbonlahor faces a late fitness test to be available for Paul Lambert’s side after an ankle injury which his manager believes makes the English striker doubtful for the tie. N’Zogbia (calf), Bennett (back) and Herd (hamstring) should all be out whilst Kozák and and Okore are definitely out with a broken leg and ACL injury respectively.
West Ham have just the four injuries to contend with. Striker Vaz Te is another to face a late fitness test with his knee injury potentially subsiding in time for this game. Joe Cole is out with a groin strain whilst powerhouse Mohamed Diamé is missing with a knee injury. O’Brien is a long term injury concern with a dislocated shoulder – his return should be around mid-April.
If you put the two records of these teams together, they have recorded just four wins in their last 20 games between them. With 11 losses combined alongside five draws. Not great viewing for Villans or Hammers fans.
West Ham are currently joint top of the clean sheet tables with eleven shutouts this season – that sees them level with league leaders Arsenal. In comparison, Aston Villa have just six shutouts but, as mentioned before, sit in tenth position.
There are four players in the Aston Villa squad with a 100% tackles won percentage: Brad Guzan, Libor Kozák, Jordan Bowery and Grant Holt. The squad as a whole has an impressive 80% tackles won record.
Aston Villa have missed 19 clear-cut chances this season compared to West Ham who have missed a staggering 25 clear-cut chances – this is the clear source of West Ham’s current predicament.
West Ham’s clear cut chance conversion is an abysmal 26%. 20% lower than Aston VIlla’s total.
Benteke has undergone something of a revival in recent weeks. In a hugely disappointing campaign, the powerful Belgian has only managed to score seven league goals but, three of those have come in his last four games and they’ve all been big goals. He started with a diving header against league leaders Arsenal before scoring again in the next game against top four chasing Liverpool in a hugely important 2-2 draw, the frontman then scored the winner as Aston Villa beat local rivals West Brom 4-3 in the recent Midlands derby. The Belgian drew a blank against Everton last weekend but against a weak West Ham side you’d do well to back him again. This time last season Benteke was at his most prolific and there are signs that he’s trying to get back to that type of form. Benteke would do well to try to improve his clear-cut chance conversion rate with the big Belgian missing ten clear-cut chances so far this season – a poor rate for a striker of his talent. Benteke has recorded 100% shooting accuracy in six different games this season which perhaps shows he’s been a little unlucky with his goals return.
Nolan has had somewhat of a quiet season compared to his usual standards. The English attacking midfielder has scored just four goals so far this season but the former Bolton Wanderers star has looked much livelier since Andy Carroll came back into the side – the two were instrumental in helping Newcastle re-establish themselves in the Premier League after their last promotion. Nolan scored two goals last time out against Swansea City with both goals assisted by Andy Carroll’s head. Carroll is missing through suspension this weekend but if Nolan can continue to find his shooting boots then West Ham might yet survive. Nolan has converted 33% of his clear-cut chances this season which is decent but he could do better with his usual eye for goal. Nolan could do with shooting a little more too, excluding goals, the West Ham attacker has only hit eight shots on target – if you don’t buy a ticket you don’t win the raffle.
Aston Villa haven’t been great at home for a number of years now but this game should represent an ideal opportunity to record back to back home wins this season, especially after the encouraging 4-3 home victory over West Brom. These teams are only separated by five points so one can assume the game will be tight. You could also assume the game will be low scoring with Villa’s dodgy home form tied together with West Ham’s low scoring but clean sheet keeping mentality. I’ll go for either 1-0 to Villa or 0-0. Not too exciting.