A turbulent Aston Villa welcome a Southampton team whose minds are starting to focus on World Cup dreams and warm, sunny beaches.
After another disappointing result and performance by Aston Villa last weekend against Crystal Palace, the call for Paul Lambert’s sacking became even louder by fans. Instead they saw the ‘suspension’ of Lambert’s second-hand men Ian Culverhouse and Gary Karsa, after their relationship broke down and caused tensions at the training ground as well as in the dressing room. Their form of 4 straight defeats and 2 victories in 10 matches has seen Villa fall back into the relegation battle with a breathing distance of just 4 points separating them from 18th placed Fulham.
Southampton’s surprise defeat to Cardiff last weekend, and run of 3 defeats in 4 matches will see many claim their season is over and the players are already thinking of exquisite holiday destinations. However, the reality seems more likely to be the Southampton players, who have impressed this season, lowering their work rate – which is key to the playing style – with a place at this summer’s World Cup, especially after Jay Rodriguez’s injury a few weeks ago.
Aston Villa’s large injury list has no new additions, but unfortunately for them it doesn’t look like anyone will return either. Bacuna, Benteke, Kozak, N’Zogbia, Helenius and Gardener are all out for the foreseeable future; while Jores Okore is unlikely to feature again this season despite coming back to training after a knee injury.
Southampton’s injury list is a much shorter one, but the absence of Boruc could continue another week with coming too soon for the Polish keeper. Rodriguez, Yoshida, and Davis are also out.
Halfway through the season, the former Leeds midfielder was touted as a potential England call-up before the final run of friendly matches after reaching the potential he’s shown, which had been stalled by injuries.
A ball-winning midfielder that is comfortable on the ball, Delph has regularly shone brighter than his underperforming teammates. Winning 200 ground duels, as well as 70 tackles, and having the best passing accuracy in midfield for Villa – the third most overall – with 84% and 1126 completed passes; the former England Under-21 international will be able to dictate the play against a Southampton wary of not getting injured.
With the injury to Jay Rodriguez the main provider of goals has fallen to the feet of Rickie Lambert, who has scored 11 in the league this season. Seen simply as a busy striker from the lower leagues, Lambert is much more than that with a technique that isn’t normally associated with a player of his type.
Able to provide for others alongside creating chances for himself – Lambert has assisted more goals for Southampton than anyone else (10) and made the most passes into the penalty area (109). His experience and positional awareness means he can create space for his teammates to thrive in or allow him to get away from his marker; while also knowing when to shoot or when to lay the ball off to a player in a better position, which has seen Lambert create 11 clear-cut chances.
- Aston Villa have obtained 17 points out of a possible 51 – 5 wins and 2 draws – scoring 19 goals along the way.
- The West Midlands side have only scored the opening at Villa Park on 4 occasions.
- Southampton have an average possession of 59%, contrasted to Villa who have an average of 44% over the course of the season.
- The south coast side have failed to score away from on only two occasions this season with the last being at Arsenal in September -` 11 games ago.
Aston Villa’s back-room change could be represented on the pitch, but their atrocious home form this season and a few Southampton players still hoping to impress their way into their respective national team squad will see the match end in a draw.