As Billy Ocean once famously sang ‘when the going gets tough, the tough gets going’. It’s an expression that Paul Lambert and Aston Villa look to have adopted as they continue to scrap for their Premier League lives. It’s now eight games since Villa last tasted victory, that impressive 3-1 win at Liverpool, but signs that a revival is around the corner have been evident in recent weeks. Lambert’s men arguably deserved to take a point from the home defeat to Newcastle after an excellent second half display before sacrificing a two-goal lead in the dying embers at Everton. Villa’s weakness at set pieces was exposed again in stoppage time against the Toffees and improvement will need to be rapid if they’re to deal with the aerial threat posed by Andy Carroll. Cutting out those mistake will be vital if Christian Benteke’s goals are finally going to lead to a much needed win.
It’s almost a given that exploiting Villa’s set piece deficiencies will be at the forefront of Sam Allardyce’s plan to take three points back to East London. Carroll’s return to first team action will have pre-empted that especially after he scored the winning goal against Swansea to lift a weight from Allardyce’s shoulders after a sticky run over Christmas and into the New Year. Its also an opportunity to better an away record that has brought just eight points from a possible 36 on the road this season.
Ashley Westwood is struggling with a virus and could miss out for Aston Villa. Karim El Ahmadi and Fabian Delph have recovered from knee injuries and could possibly feature.
Modibo Maiga remains at the African Cup of Nations with Mali, while James Collins and George McCartney are still sidelined.
What the managers said…
“Has he doubled his value? Yes, by miles. If you look at the figures being bandied about it’s not the figure I bought him for. When the guy came in people were saying to me ‘who is he and why are you going for someone from Genk?’ With what he’s done he’s a cult hero He’s only 22 and he’s got years and years ahead of him. He’s not at his peak, but what he’s done for me and for the club is fantastic.” Paul Lambert thinks Christan Benteke’s value has doubled since his £7 million move to Villa Park in the summer
“Not scoring at the right time mostly. The fact of the matter is that we’ve always had opportunities to score, but when we’ve failed to take them we’ve allowed the opposition to take advantage by scoring themselves. We then haven’t managed to retrieve that position. It’s always a difficult task to win a game of football when you go a goal down and much more difficult still when you’re away from home. It’s rare as a side playing in the Premier League for the first season to turn around a result when you lose the first goal. It can be done but it’s rare. We have to focus on keeping on a level playing field with Aston Villa and we have to try to be the team that scores the first goal.” Sam Allardyce bemoaned his side’s slow start to games and says they need to start taking the initiative (whufc.com)
Pre-match Fact: Aston Villa have failed to win their last 12 Premier League matches on a Sunday.
Prediction: Aston Villa 3-2 West Ham United