‘Strike while the iron is hot’ will be the message Paul Lambert relays to his Aston Villa squad this weekend. Three wins in four games has lifted Villa out of the relegation zone with the recent resurgence showing no signs of letting up at Stoke last week. Home form will be key to their survival as will keeping Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor amongst the goals. The strike duo have scored in recent wins over Reading, QPR and Stoke and have provided a cutting edge Villa have lacked for much of the campaign. The possibility of ending Saturday six points clear of the bottom three is a very real one and would put Lambert’s in a commanding position with games against Manchester United and Chelsea looming large.
Fulham have managed just three wins on their travels all season and head to the Midlands wounded after being undone by Newcastle in injury time the previous Sunday. That was the Cottagers’ first defeat in five games with their impressive recent form lifting them to tenth in table and allowing them to see out the remainder of the season stress free. However, even with relegation all but out of the question, Jol is unlikely to leave anything to chance and will demand his side respond to last weeks defeat in the appropriate manner. To do that Fulham will need to break new Premier League ground and win at Villa Park for the first time as a top-flight club.
Aston Villa have Darren Bent and Ciaran Clake back in contention for the visit of Fulham but Chris Herd, Marc Albrighton (both foot) and defender Richard Dunne (groin) remain sidelined.
Fulham will assess midfielder Eyong Enoh before kick-off after he injured his ankle against Newcastle last Sunday. Steve Sidwell (suspension), Ashkan Dejagah (ankle) and Mahamadou Diarra (knee) are also unavailable to manager Martin Jol.
What the managers said…
“He is hot property. If you wanted to prise Christian away from here you would want a sizeable cheque, that is for sure. He has the potential to be fantastic. If you look at modern day figures then £25m is probably a good start. “He has only been here seven or eight months. I will wait until the end of the season and I will sit with people.” Paul Lambert says star striker Christian Benteke is worth more than £25m (BBC Sport)
“If you see Villa’s results, they have got quality. They have got Christian Benteke, Andreas Weimann, Gabriel Agbonlahor, even Darren Bent on the bench. People keep telling me that they are young but I think they changed their system as well. They’ve had some fantastic results – if you think about Liverpool away from home a couple of months ago, for example.” Martin Jol is wary of the threat Aston Villa pose (SkySports)
Pre-Match Statistic: Aston Villa have conceded six goals from penalties this season – the most in the Premier League.
Prediction: Aston Villa 2-1 Fulham