The return to the Premier League hasn’t quite gone as planned for Aston Villa this season. In August, the future looked a lot brighter, and a mid-table finish seemed like a low enough bar for the squad to successfully clear.
At the end of 2019, Aston Villa found themselves in the relegation zone, though only just, with a team that shows hints of brilliance amongst lapses in concentration that cost the club points. It is tighter at the bottom end of the table than it has been for many seasons, and with the right additions to the squad, a mid-table finish and another season of top-flight football can still be won.
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, there are some important fixtures that will help shape the season for Villa, and good performances in these ties will all but guarantee they avoid the drop. Here are five fixtures you shouldn’t miss in the back half of the season.
Aston Villa v Sheffield United – Saturday 29th February 2020
Sheffield United have enjoyed some good results since their promotion last season and perhaps have had more than their fair share.
Last season this fixture was a six-goal draw between the clubs, and Aston Villa knows they still have the quality in the squad to give them some trouble. This match comes at just the right time too, when any January additions have had some time to acclimatise to life at Villa. A decent home win here could be more than three points; it could be the start of a run of form that can pull Villa out of the danger zone. You can get great prices on Aston Villa tickets at Ticket-Compare.com, who use cutting-edge algorithms to find the best value tickets available, saving thousands of fans hundreds of thousands of pounds a season.
Aston Villa v Chelsea F.C. – Saturday 14th March 2020
When this fixture would come up in previous Premier League seasons, you would be hoping the damage isn’t too great and maybe Villa would grab a goal or two, but Chelsea isn’t that team anymore.
Frank Lampard’s management of the club has been impressive, but not without its bumps along the road, and Chelsea have struggled to find the consistency they have enjoyed before. There could be some important points available to Villa here, with a draw or a home win not out of the question. This game will be a big test for Villa, as the league will start to take its final shape. If Aston Villa is going to avoid a relegation battle, they are going to have to take a point or three from games like these in March and April.
Aston Villa v Manchester United – Saturday 18th April 2020
This is another game that would normally stir up feelings of dread and trepidation, but not anymore. The red half of Manchester is a lot quieter these days, with the once all-conquering Manchester United now a shadow of its former squads.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tenure at the top of his former club has been a much bumpier ride than Frank Lampard’s at Chelsea. Many of United’s games have ended with question marks over his immediate future and chants of ‘Ole out’ from the stands. He may not even make it as far as this fixture.
This match is a great opportunity for Villa to pick up more points at home and at the expense of a side that has enjoyed many successes in front of the Villa faithful. It should also be at a time when United won’t have much left to play for, with the European spots probably already filled by then. This tie could end in a home win or a draw too.
Everton F.C. v Aston Villa – Saturday 2nd May 2020
The blue half of Liverpool hasn’t enjoyed the success of their red neighbours this season, and they have struggled a little at a time with some runs of poor results. They made a huge managerial change at the end of 2019, by making Carlo Ancelotti their new manager in what could be Everton’s biggest ever signing.
Aston Villa’s away form has been hit and miss so far this season, but Everton’s home form has been just as up-and-down, even under Ancelotti’s stewardship. If Villa can get a result at Goodison Park, they will have grabbed a point or two from a team that may have their own bottom half struggles to deal with at the end of the season.
Aston Villa v Arsenal F.C. – Saturday 9th May 2020
The last home game of the season, and the second to last game overall, could be a crucial tie for Aston Villa. Hopefully, by the time Arsenal visit Villa Park in May, safety will have been secured and Villa fans can just enjoy the football without any relegation worries. The fight for survival may be in full swing, however, and this season’s ‘iffy’ Arsenal could give Villa the opportunity for some points.
Arsenal has had a woeful season by their own standards, and have seen mid-season managerial changes that had former player Freddie Ljungberg installed as interim head coach before the arrival of former player Mikel Arteta as permanent head coach. The performances have seen moments of brilliance clouded by lapses in concentration that have seen them drop points all across the country. Dropping a few at Villa Park in May could be just what Aston Villa need.
There is still plenty to play for, and with the right additions in the mid-season transfer window, turning the season around might not be too difficult for Aston Villa. There are plenty of points left to claim, and a long road still left to travel before the season wraps up in mid-May.
Relegation doesn’t seem like the right end to this season. All the hard work that went towards promotion back to the top flight shouldn’t end with bouncing straight back down, and a club of Villa’s stature belongs in England’s biggest league. If these matches go well, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about.