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Aston Villa vs. Fulham: the search for points continues

kyle-bonn
ANALYST
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650   //    12 Apr 2013, 23:06 IST

Dimitar Berbatov of Fulham is challenged by Joe Bennett of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Aston Villa at Craven Cottage on October 20, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Dimitar Berbatov is challenged by Joe Bennett during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Aston Villa at Craven Cottage on October 20, 2012 in London, England. (Getty Images)

Fulham continues their 2-game road trip with a visit to Villa Park, on the heels of a crushing 1-0 defeat by Newcastle at St. James Park. In typical Fulham away fashion (which many had thought the club had put in the past), Martin Jol seemingly played for the draw and Alan Pardew’s men made him pay. The Fulham midfield is suddenly thin again, and according to both players and coach, they need another win to absolutely secure their Premier League status for next season. They’ll visit a Villa side that will fight for their lives.

State of Fulham:

The biggest story line for Fulham in this match will be their midfield, which has been ravaged in recent weeks for a number of reasons. Steve Sidwell is on the 2nd match of his 3-match red card ban. Urby Emanuelson played extremely poorly in his substitute appearance last time. And now the injury bug has struck Fulham in a big way. The club made public that Ashkan Dejagah’s ankle will most likely require surgery that will keep him out for the rest of the season, and Eyong Enoh, who came off against Newcastle with an ankle knock probably won’t play at Villa Park.

The missing names mean we almost certainly will see Emmanuel Frimpong, and we could see Emanuelson get another shot. It probably won’t happen, but a dark horse to start in place of Dejagah would be new extension-signee Buomesca Tue Na Bagna (a.k.a. Mesca), who could possibly get a shot. After what seemed like an experimental line-up at St. James Park, it will be interesting to see who Jol runs out tomorrow.

Fulham’s loss at Newcastle was their first since the beginning of February, and the Whites have 11 points between those two L’s. Still, it will take one more win to allow Martin Jol to sleep easy at night knowing his side will appear on the same table next year.

State of Aston Villa:

Villa have enormously bolstered their position in recent weeks, sticking 9 points in the bank in their last 6 matches to get themselves not only out of the relegation zone but a much more comfortable 2-point gap. They will be riding high after picking Stoke apart 3-1 on the road.

Cieran Clark could be back after missing 2 matches with a shoulder injury, and Darren Bent could complete his comeback after making a substitute appearance against Stoke. Bent has been out for 5 matches with his second ankle injury of that season. The London native has started just one game since Villa’s last match at Craven Cottage on October 20th, and he hasn’t played a full 90 since the  4-1 loss at Southampton in September. With Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor both playing extremely well, it could be tough for Bent to get back into the side, but we’ll see where Paul Lambert goes down the stretch.  The injured list still includes Chris Herd, Marc Albrighton and Richard Dunne.

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Villa have a relatively easy schedule down the stretch, so I wouldn’t label this a must-win for them by any chance, but with Sunderland, Norwich and Wigan still left on the docket, 3 points or even 1 for Villa could give Villa Park a much better vibe going forward.

Stats of the Week:

- Despite making headlines on the score sheet with his wonder goal, Matthew Lowton’s tackling has been a massive part of the Villa defence. According to the EA Sports Player Performance Index, Lowton is second in the Premier League with 103 tackles, and is successful a fantastic 73.8% of the time.

- Fulham haven’t won at Villa Park in the league since 1973 in the old Division Two, but did win in the FA Cup there in 1999.

- Aston Villa have conceded in their last 16 straight league matches, and a Fulham goal would make 17, the highest of such streak this season. Also, the next goal Villa concede will set a dubious club high of 60 league goals in a season.

- Opponents have hit the woodwork 18 times against Fulham this season – the most in the Premier League.

- A goal by Gabriel Agbonlahor would be his 60th for Villa, a club record.

Prediction:

Goals are certainly in the cards for this match, and I think it will be an incredibly exciting one to watch, so long as Jol doesn’t line-up the same way he did against Newcastle.  I can certainly see a 2-2 draw and a point both sides will be extremely happy with.

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