Who would have thought at the start of this once promising campaign that, entering the final five games of the season, our beloved Aston Villa would be dangling on the edge of relegation with a dark, grey, cloud of uncertainty hanging over our once proud and illustrious club? Fast forward eight months and that is exactly the position that we find ourselves in as we head to Old Trafford this Monday evening.
In stark reality this has been another disappointing season for Villa, which for me can be summed up by our Carling Cup semi final defeat to Bradford City of League 2. The chance to reach a major final against a Swansea side we actually did quite well against would have been almost a silver lining on this campaign but it was not to be. Turned over both home and away by a team 3 divisions below us, not even the return of 40,000 free flags could save us that day. For many people, that result hammered home the relegation nails into our impending coffin but since then Paul Lambert has rallied the troops, rallied the fans and we are finally starting to see some progress, albeit slowly.
Games like the one coming up on Monday are not going to be where we find out if we will stay up or not, those types of games will come against Sunderland, Norwich and Wigan. No, the game on Monday is a chance to entertain, a chance to upset the odds, a chance for the players, staff and management team to reward the fans for their unwavering support this season. Sure, it will be a hard game and the chances are we will get beat, but if we manage to somehow get a point or even god forbid three points then it would do wonders for everyone associated with Aston Villa.
Also, playing on Monday means that all the teams around us will have played so we should get a clearer idea of whether or not this game becomes a lot more serious than it already is. Wigan travel to West Ham, Sunderland play Everton and QPR entertain Stoke this Saturday afternoon and, for me, three draws in those games could be the best possible outcomes. Obviously, we would all love it if West Ham won but Wigan played very well against Man City the other day and shouldn’t have lost the game so I can see them getting at least a point at the Boleyn Ground. Providing that my predictions are correct, they aren’t normally, then this would leave Villa two points clear of Wigan who occupy the current final relegation place. Imagine then if we got something from Old Trafford…
Attention would then turn to the team Lambert would choose against the Red Devils and whether his recent comment about the fringe players having a part to play still in the season would come into fruition. If it was me then I would play the following: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Bennett, Delph, Westwood, Gabby, Nzogbia, Weimann, Benteke. Before I saw the weekend fixtures I was contemplating suggesting resting a few for the game against Sunderland – the likes of Bent in for Benteke and maybe Clark back into defence but why? If all the teams around us win on Saturday then we will need a positive result and if they all drop points then it is a chance to pull away from the bottom three. However, whichever players we select for Monday evening it will need to be a momentous effort from the boys in claret and blue if we are to record a positive result. Upon reflection, it is quite ironic that we will be playing at the Theatre of Dreams on Monday night, for if we play our cards right then it could the travelling fans whose dreams come true.
As a Villa fan I never like to predict us to lose as most the time I end up being right when that is the case so here it goes!
Manchester United 1-1 Aston Villa
Goalscorer: Agbonlahor, only for Van Persie to equalise late in the game!