This Saturday, Aston Villa travel to the Liberty stadium to take on Swansea City. The two teams find themselves separated by one point and two league places, with Swansea in 13th and Aston Villa in 15th. Swansea’s win last weekend at Newcastle has done a lot to ensure their survival. If the other results go their way, a draw for Swansea will mathematically ensure their survival. Villa have a game in hand over most of their rivals at the bottom, but they are without a win in five after a draw with Southampton in their last game. A draw could also be enough for Villa’s survival due to their superior goal difference, but a win would help their cause even further.
Swansea only have on injury absentee heading into the fixture. Spanish forward Michu has had a tough season marred by injury, and he has still not properly recovered from the ankle injury that has kept him on the side lines in recent months. Other than Michu, manager Garry Monk has his full complement of players to select from.
Aston Villa have a number of injured players who will miss the fixture. Villa will be without Gary Gardner (Ankle), Libor Kozak (Broken Leg), Nicklas Helenius (Thigh) and Charles N’Zogbia (Calf). Top scorer Christian Benteke is Villa’s most important absentee. The Belgian will miss the rest of the season and the World Cup after rupturing his achilles tendon a few weeks ago in training. Defender Jores Okore could return to the squad after missing the majority of the season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
When the two teams met earlier in the season, they drew 1-1 with a Roland Lamah equaliser cancelling out Gabriel Agbonlahor’s opener. Three of the five meetings between the teams in the Premier League has been a draw. In the other two games, each team has bested the other 2-0. Swansea have benefitted from eight own goals this season, that is more than any other fit Aston Villa player. Aston Villa have won 15 of their 22 games against Swansea in their history. They are unbeaten in their away trips to Swansea in the Premier League. Villa have gone three hours and 20 minutes without scoring a Premier League goal.
Wilfried Bony had a good game for the Swans last time out at Newcastle. Bony has scored 13 goals this season, but his two against Newcastle were the first time he has been a match winner for Garry Monk’s side. The goals came at a vital time as they have all but almost assured Swansea’s survival. Bony has been an important component for Swansea this season, and has ably taken up the goal scoring responsibility from the injured Michu, who has only scored twice this season. The real test for Bony will be to continue his good form for the final games of the season and then the World Cup with the Ivory Coast in the summer. Second seasons are often tough for strikers, but Bony has the ability to be album to improve on his first season, as his game is suited for the Premier League.
Gabriel Agbonlahor is Aston Villa’s longest serving player and has played for the club for the whole of his career. Helping the club to avoid relegation is something that he has had to do for the second year running, and he has shown real quality in patches this year. Agbonlahor has only scored three goals this season, but they have all helped to win points for Villa. He has also contributed five assists for his team which equals his best total in a season for Villa. Although in recent years his goal scoring has decreased, Agbonlahor has been used mainly as a winger so assists is something that he has had to add to his game. With Benteke injured, Agbonlahor may be given the chance to play in a central striking role with Grant Holt as the Villans have experimented with a 3-5-2 formation. Wherever he is picked, Agbonlahor will give his all to ensure relegation for his hometown club.
It is a hard fixture to predict a score line for. The last two fixtures between the two sides have ended in a draw and that would be a good bet for this game too. With both teams still relatively safe, a draw would move them towards survival rather than going for broke and losing. With only three games remaining both of these sides should survive this season. I predict a 1-1 draw for this fixture.