Robbie Keane’s couple of months at Celtic a couple of seasons ago brought him a Hoop of the year award I seem to remember. Despite only featuring in half a dozen or so games for Villa this January he can’t be far off a similar accolade such has been their lack of success during this campaign. They lie fifteenth, three points clear of the drop zone and will be more than a tad nervous leading up to our fixture on Sunday.
When you think of what’s been going on at Villa Park lately, not much positive springs to mind. Two seasons ago when we qualified for the CL they were clear favourites for fourth spot with only a few games to go, they didn’t get it of course and not much has gone right since. O’Neill sulked off, Houllier went sick and it’s likely McLeish will jump or be pushed even if they survive such is the animosity towards and the negativity that surrounds him.
Nothing could be more different at our end of course, oh no. All of a sudden we’re back in the business of scoring goals and collecting points. We know who our manager will be next season and all we need is a couple of wins and we’ll be laughing all the way to the Moneybags League, assuming Bayern don’t stink out their own back garden on the 19th of course.
Our record at Villa Park has been good in recent seasons, Van der Vaart’s superb first time finish at the Reebok on Tuesday was very reminiscent of the way he took his two goals when we won in Birmingham last season, and as such we should be confident that we can pull off the win that may well leave, rather ironically, only Martin Jol between us and fourth place. Given the right results at Villa and the SportsDirect Arena and ours and the Barcodes relative goal difference it is possible that only a set of freak results on the last weekend will deny us a potential CL qualifying place. But that is getting way ahead of ourselves.
There’s a game to be won first and once again it’s against a team who should be giving their all on the pitch (and not outside city centre nightclubs), but then that’s what we thought when we played Blackburn. We can expect a rearguard action from the start from the home team with the onus on us to break them down. The players responded brilliantly at Bolton, we can only hope for more of the same this time around. Assuming everyone is fit and raring to go then an unchanged team is more than likely.
Lee Probert is the referee.
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