Having failed to record back-to-back Premier League victories since May 2011 the time to change that is now for Aston Villa. After going to fellow strugglers Reading and returning home with three massive points under their belts, Paul Lambert’s young troops have given themselves a benchmark to go on and secure their Premier League status for next season. However, this week they’ll face a QPR side experiencing a resurgence rather than one in decline and will ultimately need to make home advantage count. It’s plausible to suggest that Lambert will instruct his players to avoid defeat at all costs, but with the chance to move seven points above the drop zone before Wigan play on Sunday he may call for his side to strike while the iron is hot.
If you were to categorise this game in terms of importance for QPR it would have to go down as ‘critical’. Victory in each of their last two matches has generated some much needed momentum for Rangers and they now stand just four points from safety. Win at Villa Park and that figure is reduced to a solitary point; barely conceivable when Harry Redknapp arrived late last year. Back then they were rock bottom with just four points on the board and no hope of staying up. Now they have 23 and a recently discovered optimism that could well be a pivotal factor in their hopes of remaining a top-flight club. And you have to feel there is another Redknapp great escape on the Portsmouth scale brewing on the horizon.
Karim El Ahmadi (ankle) and Fabian Delph (banned) are unavailable for Aston Villa. Darren Bent won’t feature due to an ankle problem.
Julio Cesar and Adel Taarabt have returned to fitness for QPR, while Armand Traore will have his calf injury assessed before kick off. Despite hip and ankle knocks it looks like Bobby Zamora will start up front.
What the managers said…
“Other teams near the middle of the table could easily get sucked in. I’ve always been positive in my football and the way we’ve been playing lately I don’t see why we should be unduly worried. I don’t talk about it, I just focus on the game ahead of us. We’re in the mix with a lot of other teams but I’ve got belief we’re going to be fine. You can’t influence what has happened in the past,” said Lambert. “You can only influence what happens now.” Paul Lambert says he isn’t thinking about relegation (BBC Sport)
“I think they’re a massive club – Villa and they’re a young team. The pressure of the home crowd can play on people’s performances. People wrote us off four weeks ago. But now we’ve got ourselves back in the picture. We were no hopers so the pressure is not so much on us. It is a big game for sure. We’re both in a relegation battle so it’s going to have an important bearing on the league. It’ll make a massive difference to the look of the league table. The lads are ready to go and all along I felt we could do it. I said it was going to be tough. I still think we can do it. We went to Chelsea and won. We had that five match unbeaten run before being beaten by Swansea and Man United. That’s only two defeats in nine games. We’ve got to be up for it. It’s Premier League football. It’s a good club and we desperately want to stay in the Premier League.” Harry Redknapp insists all the pressure will be on Villa’s young side and not QPR on Saturday (Mirror Sport)
Pre-Match Statistic: Supporters can rest assured that there will be goals in this game with Villa and QPR meeting 41 times in the league and never sharing a goalless draw.
Prediction: Aston Villa 2-1 QPR
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