The entire season boils down to a must-win game at The London Stadium, as Villa seek survival with victory over West Ham.
It has been a long and unpredictable road throughout what has been a challenging first season back in the Premier League for Villa. Dean Smith now has the job of strapping us into the Villa rollercoaster for one last white knuckle ride. When we jump off, Villa need to have secured a second term in the top flight by any means possible.
We have detailed the key facts and stats ahead of the game – here is this afternoons confirmed Villa side to face West Ham:
VILLA TEAM NEWS
On The Bench
You don’t need The Villa Underground to lecture you on quite how important this is.
Our international viewers will have seen us talking on the Premier League Weekend Warm Up about just what an opportunity we are presented with against West Ham. Barely two weeks ago, it felt that we were virtually dead and buried after defeats to Liverpool and Manchester United.
There was then a brief sense of hope after beating Crystal Palace, only to have the survival stuffing knocked out of us against Everton. Theo Walcott’s 87th minute equaliser felt like that could easily be the moment to send us crashing back into The Championship.
However, results went our way, Watford stuttered and inexplicably sacked Nigel Pearson. Bournemouth also faltered. Smelling blood and with the anguish from Goodison Park fresh in our minds, we did a professional job over Arsenal at Villa Park winning 1-0. All these factors combined to see us move out of the bottom three on goal difference.
West Ham meanwhile are one of the form teams of lockdown. If truth be told this was the side that The Villa Underground had circled as the team Dean Smith would need to overhaul. As things turn out, The Hammers’ victory over Watford and draw against Man Utd last time out makes them safe.
We should not underestimate our opponents, they are in good form and Antonio is the divisions leading goalscorer with 8 strikes since the Premier League’s resumption. Declan-Rice also impresses both on the pitch and off it, the 21 year old cuts a mature and cut-above figure for both club and country. It would be remiss to suggest our opponent’s are “on the beach”.
For us, it’s simple; win by any means necessary. Villa (and our fanbase) simply cannot tolerate cocking this up from here. From the shape we were in crashing downwards, dragging ourselves from the brink of relegation, the message is simplel; do not throw it away.
The key to any success may not be from obvious quarters.
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Trezeguet is an enigma. Unrefined and arguably headless, he fights tirelessly and certainly knows where the goal is. Douglas Luiz will be crucial. The Brazilian oozes a first class quality below the rader of many opponents; his range of passing and vision will be pivotal. Hourihane will need to be on top form too; we’ll need a 6th assist from him at some point. Grealish has been industrious if not statistically effective of late. It’s now or never in a Villa shirt for him, perhaps.
The final day of a season like this is about the excitement, the suspense and hopefully for us, relief. Relief at least when we secure our safety. It’s not worth even considering the alternative…
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