Poor old Villa...
It’s easy to feel sorry for Aston Villa. No-one could’ve foreseen the club’s downward spiral since Martin O’Neill left in August 2010. Except perhaps Martin O’Neill.
The descent from regular Top Six side to the mess currently at the bottom of the Premier League is a depressing one. Nineteen PL matches without a win is dire. Failing to get past League Two Wycombe Wanderers (so far) in the FA Cup is fairly shocking.
But when you read about senior players swearing at their own travelling fans for calling them out on their attitude, it’s time to call a priest.
That’s where we start our midweek coverage…
19.45 Aston Villa v Crystal Palace
Losing to Norwich and Sunderland almost certainly condemned Villa to Championship football next season. Failing to get past L2 Wycombe (so far) in the FA Cup won’t help morale. Palace prefer playing away – only the Top Two travel better – and should have the cutting to take the points here.
Score Prediction: Away win. 1-2
MVP Prediction: Jason Puncheon was the driving force v Southampton.
19.45 Bournemouth v West Ham
Bournemouth haven’t scored in their last three PL matches, but just a single defeat (at Arsenal) in the last nine matches has the south coast side very much looking north. But there are not many tougher matches than a full strength West Ham, which they are now Dimitri Payet and Andy Carroll have returned.
Score Prediction: Hard to split. 1-1
MVP Prediction: Dmitri Payet looks should start.
19.45 Newcastle v Man United
Man United have returned to winning ways, but no-one is fooled. The leaden FA Cup performance - and Paul Scholes’ tongue – will have cranked the pressure back up on LVG. An average of just 0.8 goals a game in their last ten is pretty dire, but it might be enough to win at St James’ Park. Newcastle have lost four in a row by a 1-0 scoreline.
Score Prediction: Take a book. 0-0
MVP Prediction: David De Gea should be good for another sheet.
19.45 Chelsea v West Brom
Chelsea might not have turned the corner, but they are certainly hanging around at the end of the street. Forwards are making the runs, midfielders are finding the passes and defenders making the interceptions they weren’t two months ago. But a win over West Brom will only bring them level on points. The Baggies carry little threat on the road (only Newcastle pack less), but only Palace concede less.
Score Prediction: Chelsea will have to work but should get the points. 2-0
19.45 Man City v Everton
Four away matches on the spin has seen City start to look the part again. Sergio Aguero and David Silva have returned and got some valuable minutes on the clock and they’ve even kept a couple of clean sheets (two in their last four). Everton have won just a single PL point in six matches v Top Six but will take heart from their 2-1 win over City in the first leg of the Capital Cup semi-final.
Score Prediction: City can outscore Everton. 2-1
MVP Prediction: Sergio Aguero could be the main player in the destiny of the PL title.
19.45 Southampton v Watford
A tough string of fixtures – v a rejuvenated Chelsea, in-form Tottenham and Man City – has threatened to wobble Watford’s fairytale season. But Southampton isn’t a scary place to go these days. Eight defeats in ten, including four at home has the Saints in a bit of a tailspin. At a stage of the season when things are looking bright for many of their peers. Worrying times.
Score Prediction: Another away win for me. 1-2
MVP Prediction: Odion Ighalo will have appreciated the FA Cup break.
19.45 Stoke v Norwich
Stoke’s front three have drawn all the praise, but it is their defensive performance that has underpinned their season so far and the key to a result here. Norwich’s problems in front of goal cost them their PL status two season ago and is threatening to do the same. They have failed to score in three of their last four on the road and will probably need two to win here.
Score Prediction: Stoke like a 2-0 at home.
MVP Prediction: Anyone of the front three are valid. But I’ll go Jack Butland.
19.45 Swansea v Sunderland
A proper six-pointer. Swansea will need a performance after a shocking FA Cup exit to L2 Oxford United, but two goals from seven matches sums up their problems neatly. Sunderland will smell blood. Big Sam’s team will have travelled 2000 miles by the time they reach Tottenham on Saturday. But this is the one that Sam will have identified as the match with points potential.
Score Prediction: Sunderland have the goals to nick this. 0-1
MVP Prediction: Jermain Defoe will be Sunderland’s key man if they are to stay up.
20.00 Liverpool v Arsenal
Jurgen Klopp didn’t expect to have played 20 matches by now and – like his squad - looks to be showing the strain. He is blaming the fixture for Liverpool’s injury crisis, while some blame his methods. Whatever it is, Arsenal are not the team you want to see in the tunnel at the moment. Seven wins from eight matches suggests they are in the mood. If they can hold their form until the Champions League rolls around again, we will again be talking about a first title in ten years.
Score Prediction: Several games too far for Liverpool. 0-2
MVP Prediction: Aaron Ramsey looks to have his goal knack back.
20.00 Tottenham v Leicester
The two drew (2-2) in the FA Cup at the weekend. Making it four without a win for Leicester, firing three PL blanks in a row. But will welcome Riyad Mahrez and possibly even Jamie Vardy back. This is also the Foxes first away appointment at a Top Four team. Tottenham have enjoyed life in the slipstream of Arsenal and Man City but will make it a genuine three-way run-in with a win here.
Score Prediction: Spurs on the march. 2-1
MVP Prediction: Dele Alli should start.
That’s how it looks from here…
Until next time.
Matt Nesbitt’s short, unspectacular but joyful playing career has given way to a much longer, more successful but immeasurably more rubbish one writing about football and providing betting advice. Email: Matt Nesbitt