Aston Villa v Southampton – the preview

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After last week’s defeat at Old Trafford, relegation was finally confirmed for Aston Villa and next season we will be plying our trade in the Championship. Even the most optimistic of fans accepted months ago that we were relegated and it’s actually a relief that it’s confirmed.

Things have been interesting to say the least off the pitch this week. First, Gabby Agbonlahor’s name appeared up in media headlines because of his activities last weekend. The news left a very sour taste in the mouths of Villa fans, as it showed how little the club captain actually cares about the club and its fans. Partying late at night on the day the club has been relegated is not something for Agbonlahor to be proud of. The fact that he is also unfit to play right now shows how far the striker has fallen in recent times.

If that wasn’t enough, Mervyn King and David Bernstein both resigned from their roles on the new ‘footballing board’, labelling their positions ‘untenable’, which we later learned may have been due to some communication mishaps with the owner, Randy Lerner.

Following this news, there were some rumblings that Lerner is involved in ‘extensive’ talks regarding a takeover, which was confirmed by Steve Hollis.

Perhaps there are exciting times ahead but today is all about the drudgery of a tragic season as the Villans play host to Southampton FC. The Saints are still in contention for a place in the Europa League and will also be aiming for a top six finish in the league.

Match details:

Venue: Villa Park, Birmingham
Date: Saturday 23th April 2016
Kick-off: 15:00
Referee: Neil Swarbrick

Team news:

Manager Eric Black explained that Kieran Richardson picked up a knock in training and is doubtful for the game today.

Ciaran Clark also picked up a knock mid-week but may be fit enough to make the squad.

Jores Okore has seemingly become frustrated at his lack of playing time and consequently has fallen out with the caretaker manager. Black explained that Okore is unlikely to play again this season because of this.

Gabby Agbonlahor has been officially suspended by the club again, this time in relation to revelations about his conduct following the confirmation of relegation.

The opposition:

Striker Charlie Austin will remain on the sidelines due to a knee injury, as will Florin Gardos.

Victor Wanyama look a heavy knock to his ribs in the game against Everton last week but will be fit for today’s game.

Jose Fonte was also a doubt mid-week for today but manager Ronald Koeman told the press that he expects him to be available for selection.

The danger men:

When these sides met last season, Sadio Mane scored the quickest hat trick in Premier League history by bagging three goals in under three minutes. It was an embarrassing moment but Mane is that type of player: on his day he can be very dangerous for opposition defenders but inconsistency has limited his progress this season. He will be licking his lips to the prospect of playing against an extremely poor Villa back line today.

Graziano Pelle is a striker capable of scoring goals with his head or his feet. At times, he can be clinical in the box and his threat should not be taken lightly. The Italian international started the season  well but fell into a slump when he didn’t score for weeks on end. He was slowly eased into the team following the signing of Charlie Austin and has now rediscovered his form, scoring four goals in his last five appearances.

Recent form:

The Villans have lost nine games in a row now, totalling twenty-four losses to date in the Premier League in 2015-16. You’d be hard pressed to find a team in worse form in Europe.

In all competitions, the Villans have lost the last five games (L L L L L).

The Villans have also lost their last five home games in the league, (L L L L L).

The Saints have been in decent form as of late. In the league, they’ve won three, drawn one and lost one (D W L W W).

On their travels, the Saints have won two, lost two and drawn once (D L W L W).

In the past:

The corresponding fixture earlier this season actually brought a decent result by this season’s standards. The Saints mostly dominated the game in terms but it was Joleon Lescott who was able to give the Villans the lead with a header just before half time.

The Villans defended quite well but, inevitably, Southampton broke through the claret and blue resistance and notched an equaliser late on through the most unlikely of sources, Oriol Romeu. The deep-sitting midfielder lost his marker at a corner and was able to put the ball into the net from close range.

Let’s hope the players can give the fans something to cheer about, some “romantic nourishment” perhaps. Otherwise, the only thing to look forward to will be more gallows humour.

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