Aston Villa are set to take on fellow Premier League strugglers Southampton this afternoon, in the first of what will be three huge games for Villa’s season in the coming weeks.
Villa come into the game off the back of what was purely a morale-boosting win over a young Liverpool team in the Carabao Cup this week. Goals from Conor Hourihane, Jonathan Kodjia x2, and Wesley alongside an own goal was enough to see Villa safely through into the last four.
However, if you look back at the Villa’s previous league game then the same cannot be said, as Dean Smith’s men failed to turn up in what was already a tough enough test against a very much in-form Sheffield United.
Despite two goals from United midfielder John Fleck, Villa did not help themselves as they finished the game without registering a single shot on target. Oh, and then there was the squandered chances from Wesley and Jack Grealish, excluding that missed penalty chance by the stand-in Villa skipper as he rocked the bar.
Nonetheless, the Villa can come into the game against Southampton and feel encouraged as Ralph Hasenhüttl’s team are currently situated just one place below Villa, as the Saints occupy the final drop zone place.
Of course, the Saints are level on points with Villa (15) and the only difference between the two side’s is goal difference. Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side are currently sitting on a goal difference of -18, which wasn’t helped by the 9-0 hammering received at the hands of Leicester City.
As for Villa, they currently sit on a goal difference of -7 and have actually scored five more goals than Southampton, yet have only managed one win in the last five Premier League outings. Southampton? They have won two of their last five with wins coming against Norwich and Watford, both of whom Villa play prior to today’s game.
With form to one side, this will be just as a big of a test as Sheffield United was last week for Villa, as their record against the Saints is not very pretty whatsoever.
You will have to go back to December 2013 to see the last Villa win over Southampton, which actually came on the road at St.Mary’s. For the last time that Villa won at Villa Park against the Saints, you will have to go back as far as August 2004. Goals that day from Darius Vassell and Carlton Cole handed then-boss David O’Leary a 2-0 opening day win.
What the gaffer said:
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith on the visit of Southampton to Villa Park:
”We’ve come through a tough fixture list and now we’re coming up against teams that are in and around us. I said to the players at the start of the season that Villa Park is massive for us, the results and the performances that we get there.”
”Our supporters have been fantastic and with the exception of Leicester City, nobody has had an easy ride at Villa Park. To come out of the Sheffield United game knowing you’ve got Liverpool, Southampton and Norwich at home gives everybody confidence.”
”If we win tomorrow, the world will look a different place.”
Having featured in his first game back since January, Club-Captain James Chester is fit and ready to go, while Tyrone Mings is getting healthy but is still only around 50% recovered from his hamstring injury.
It will be interesting to see whether Smith goes with Chester or whether he sticks with the same two who started against Sheff Utd in Björn Engels and Kortney Hause. Goalkeeper Jed Steer and Striker Keinan Davis are also slowly but surely making their way back to fitness but won’t be available for selection against Southampton.
Don’t forget that you can join us over on our Twitter page for game updates and conversation throughout the course of the day.
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