Aston Villa have a great chance to get back to winning ways in the Premier League as they welcome Tottenham to Villa Park. They will be coming up against a team in a desperate position following their defeat in the Europa League. It was a humiliating evening for Spurs and the pressure is ramping up on Jose Mourinho. There is no margin for error, as he needs to finish in the top four if he is to get another season in North London. At the time of writing, they are six points behind Chelsea in fourth with a game in hand over their London rivals. This weekend is an opportunity to strengthen their league position as several of their rivals don’t play. They need to take it.
It has been a good season for Aston Villa. Many predicted that Dean Smith’s side would be in for another season of struggle after just avoiding the drop in their first campaign back in the top flight. However, they have pushed on and made some clever additions, which has allowed them to establish themselves in the top half. In the early part of the season, they were threatening to challenge for European qualification. Although they are still in the running, their recent form and difficult run-in suggests they are unlikely to reach that aim. That said, a win on Sunday will move them within a point of Tottenham.
This season has been a strange one for Jose Mourinho. His usual managerial reign has been truncated into a single season. They were talked about as title contenders in the early months, while they managed to reach the final of the Carabao Cup. Since the turn of the year, their form has been awful. They have fallen away in the league and been knocked out of two cup competitions. The pressure is now building and to salvage the campaign, Spurs need to finish in the top four and win the Carabao Cup. Few people would back them to do either, let alone achieve both.
- Since Boxing Day, Aston Villa have only managed to win four of 14 matches in the Premier League.
- Tottenham are currently on a seven match losing streak against teams in the top half of the table.
It has been an excellent week personally for Ollie Watkins as he has received his first England call-up. The striker has become the latest to move up from non-league to international football and it caps off a very good first season in the Premier League. He has contributed ten goals and three assists so far, but there is a feeling that he could have had a lot more goal involvements. Watkins is key to the Aston Villa style, as shown by his playing time in the league. He is one of only two in the squad to play in every Premier League minute alongside Emi Martinez. In addition to his goal threat, he links up the play well and his movement opens up space for others. The Villa attack has suffered without Jack Grealish and his upcoming return will benefit Watkins. The midfielder could return this weekend. If he does, the home side have a great chance of getting a result and Watkins could mark his England call-up with a goal. His energy and work rate will cause a lot of problems to a Tottenham defence low on confidence.
Tottenham are now in a perilous position and they desperately need to put together a run of wins to give them a chance of salvaging their season. If they are to do that, Harry Kane will need to step up and perform at his very best. Spurs have regularly asked a lot of their talisman and even he may be unable to save Jose Mourinho’s job. If they do fail to finish in the top four, there will be questions about his long-term future. Kane is an ambitious player, who will want to play at the very highest level. His record to date ranks with the very best. It includes a World Cup golden boot and 20 goals in the Champions League at a rate of one every 104.4 minutes. However, he is now 27 and reaching a key period in his career. He will want to win trophies and play in the Champions League, which looks unlikely at Tottenham in the short term. The run-in could see Kane have his best personal season in the Premier League, as he currently has 16 goals and 13 assists. If he does push on and have a strong finish to the season, rumours could start to circulate about his future. This weekend, he has a great chance to get back to scoring ways and he will be determined to bounce back from midweek disappointment against Aston Villa.
Jack Grealish is a doubt as he steps up his recovery from injury. Bertrand Traore should be available following a knock that forced him off against Newcastle, while Matty Cash should return to the starting eleven.
Son Heung-min is unlikely to be available as he suffered a hamstring injury last weekend. Erik Lamela will be missing through suspension, due to his red card against Arsenal. Giovani Lo Celso could feature for the first time in the Premier League this year.
Aston Villa will be relishing the opportunity to inflict more pain on Tottenham. They will be facing a team low on confidence and if Grealish is back, they will have a spring in their step. The recent performances haven’t been good, but they have the quality to beat Spurs, especially after a full week of rest. Tottenham have played 210 minutes since Villa last stepped onto a football pitch. The extra rest will be key in the result. A home win is very likely.
Aston Villa 2-1 Tottenham