Aston Villa vs. Crystal Palace
Venue: Villa Park
Kick off: 2:15PM
Aston Villa welcome Crystal Palace to the West Midlands today knowing that only a win will do as they fight for their right to play in the Premier League next season.
Meanwhile, Palace realistically have nothing to play for after four successive losses left their already-slim European hopes in tatters.
After trying but failing to overcome newly-crowned Premier League champions Liverpool in their own backyard, Villa had only a few days off to prepare for their next testing fixture against an in-form Manchester United side.
A controversially-awarded Bruno Fernandes penalty opened the floodgates for United to sweep aside relegation-threatened Villa, as further strikes from Mason Greenwood and Paul Pogba confirmed a result that many had predicted would occur before the game kicked off.
Furthermore, following Bournemouth’s goalless stalemate with Tottenham Hotspur, Villa have now dropped below their relegation rivals in the table and occupy 19th spot with four games left to play.
The battle to rise above the dotted line is far from over, although Watford’s victory over bottom-of-the-table Norwich City means that Villa are now four points adrift of safety at this very late stage.
That gap could temporarily be increased to seven points if Watford overcome Newcastle United the day before, and things are looking increasingly ominous for a Villa side that are winless and goalless in their last three outings.
Dean Smith is still looking to guide the relegation candidates to their first win since January, although the visit of Palace possibly represents their most winnable fixture since the Premier League resumed.
Indeed, Roy Hodgson’s men have now suffered four defeats on the bounce in the top flight, although they would have been frustrated to come away from their thrilling London Derby with Chelsea empty-handed in midweek.
The Eagles fought valiantly against the Champions League-chasing Blues but ultimately succumbed to a 3-2 defeat at Selhurst Park, although Chelsea were indebted to a heroic late tackle from Kurt Zouma when Christian Benteke seemed destined to level the scores late on.
Nevertheless, even though Palace managed to end their three-game drought in front of goal on Tuesday, Hodgson’s side have slipped down to 14th in the table after taking just three points from 15 on offer following the restart.
Despite the fact that the Eagles are not mathematically safe just yet, a 12-point cushion from the relegation zone with four games remaining means that there is little at stake for Palace in the final stages of the campaign.
Hodgson’s side seemed ready to mount a late charge for a top-seven finish following a four-game winning streak before their loss to Liverpool in June, but any European aspirations will sadly not come to fruition for the Palace faithful this season.
A Jordan Ayew winner was enough for Palace to take all three points against Villa in the reverse fixture back in August.
Aston Villa possible XI: Reina, Guilbert, Hause, Mings, Targett, El Ghazi, Luiz, Hourihane, Trezeguet, Grealish, Davis.
Crystal Palace possible XI: Guaita, Ward, Dann, Kelly, Van Aanholt, Zaha, Milivojevic, McArthur, Kouyate, Ayew, Benteke.