The relentless drive for TV money by Sky and other media companies means it is time for the Aston Villa game week 25 preview and a look at the mini-league. There appears to be no end to football on TV these days. I genuinely cannot recall a day when I haven’t been able to watch some football. I did think that tonight was going to be a footballing night off for the Mrs. However, I was wrong, as I discovered the Europa league is on. Man Utd, Spurs and Arsenal are all in action this evening if we want some entertainment.
But, the game I will be watching is the one between our PL opponents on Sunday; Leicester City. Leicester have an away leg against Slavia Prague. I love Prague, I worked there for about 3 years and had a wonderful time so I hoping for a Czechmate. It would be helpful if Leicester has a tough game and some travel disruption on the way home. That said, playing in Prague on Thursday night followed by a 2-hour flight home is not ideal preparation for a game on Sunday. By the way, the kick-off time has been changed to accommodate the TV schedule. It is now 14:05 kickoff as opposed to the previously scheduled 14:00 kickoff. An extra 5 minutes to squeeze in a few more ads to the post-match discussion of the earlier match between Hammers and Spurs.
Game Week 25 Matches
There are 11 games to enjoy over the coming days with 10 from game week 25. The EPL has also scheduled an extra game (Leeds v Saints) to be played next Tue evening, this is a game that was postponed during game week 18. Of the 11 games, there are 8 games which have teams competing in our midtable mini-league. And two of these 8 games are 6 pointers with each team from the mini-league (Wolves v Leeds & Leeds v Saints).
Liverpool v Everton
There are some great fixtures this game week with Liverpool hosting Everton the pick of the bunch. That’s the 5:30pm game on Saturday and I will be watching it for entertainment and out of interest. Liverpool has lost their last 3 games while Everton has two losses and a draw. Both teams are on poor runs with each needing points for their respective pushes for European qualification. From a Villa perspective, I want Liverpool to win this game and I expect them to do just that. However, will Villa be able to exploit my anticipated Everton loss? Since the halfway stage, game 19, Villa and Everton have scored the same number of points. We need to start outscoring Everton if we want to realise our Europen dream.
Wolves v Leeds
I could be wrong, but I don’t see Leeds finishing ahead of Villa this season. But the mini-league is very close, and we only have a 4 point advantage over Leeds. With Leeds playing twice this game week they could possibly overtake us in the PL table come Tuesday evening. They are a good team, and we need to be wary of them. As for Wolves, again, I don’t expect them to finish above us as we have a 9 point lead over them and 2 games in hand. Therefore to keep both teams a safe distance away from us, I think a draw in this game is the ideal outcome. It is not just the ideal outcome; it is also the outcome I expect with Wolves and Leeds sharing the points.
Southampton v Chelsea
Saints look like they may get relegated from the mid-table mini-league and join the bottom half teams. Since beating Sheffield United on Dec 13th, they have only won once from 12 PL games. They have drawn 3, all of which were in December and have lost their last 6 games. Quite bizarrely, their single league win from the last 12 league games was against Liverpool. In contrast, Chelsea is getting better and better since Tuchel replaced Frank. Following a draw in his opening game, Tuchel has guided Chelsea to 4 straight wins. I have no doubt that this will be extended to 5 straight wins on Saturday.
Hammers v Spurs
Yes, I appreciate you will all be rooting for Karen’s and Eve’s boys and hoping they get the win. But we need to focus on Villa and not be distracted by the two lovely lady directors at West Ham. We really need Spurs to win this. Hammers lie 6 points ahead of us albeit we have 2 games in hand. They have also outscored us 7-4 in points gained since GW19. They are winning too many games and I do not like how they are extending their advantage over us.
We need Jose to sort out their defence and to stop conceding silly goals. (I can understand why Konsa is linked with a 60m transfer to Spurs in the summer). Maybe this is the game that Bale justifies his 500k+ a week pay packet. Spurs won 4-1 away in the Europa which will hopefully give them the momentum to take 3 points on Sunday. I think Hammers are due a beating and I think the time has come.
Arsenal v Man City
Arsenal host the Champions elect and will see all 3 points heading up the M6 on Sunday evening. The gulf in class between these two teams is enormous, and I can’t see anything but a fairly big win for City. This would be great for Villa as The Gunners are only 2 points behind us in the PL table, although we have 2 games in hand.
Brighton v Palace
Palace is another team facing relegation from the midtable mini-league and down to the bottom half teams. With Zaha out injured, they are showing their frailties. I like Eze for Palace, but he is not yet able to carry the team to victory. As we know, Brighton can be a difficult team to breakdown and nor do they score too many. Although Palace does not have Emi Martinez in goal, I think Roy is a canny manager and will set his team up not to lose this game, so I anticipate this to be a scoreless bore.
Leeds v Southampton
My second review of Leeds and Southampton this game week so you have an idea how I feel about these teams. I fully expect Leeds to increase the pressure on Hasenhuttl and win this encounter by a few goals. This will not be a good result for us. If my earlier prediction of a Wolves v Leeds draw comes is right then a win at home to the Saints could lift Leeds to 36 points and potentially level on points with Villa.
Aston Villa v Leicester City
This game is causing all sorts of problems with my thinking. At times I think this is a nightmare of a fixture for us considering our lack of consistency and dip in form. Then, I think this is the perfect game for Dean Smith to show the PL what Villa is all about. If Villa turn up and play our attacking brand of football and our players play the way we know they can, this could be a very decisive game week.
I started writing this Leader a few hours ago and took a break to get dinner for the kids. Earlier I said that I was going to watch the Leicester game in the Europa. I have now watched a fairly boring 0-0 draw and Leicester played a full-strength team. Vardy was substituted on 64 mins and Maddison on 76 minutes. They are quite early substitutions (I am used to DS timings) and will have given these two key players a little less exertion to recover from by Sunday. Regardless, there was absolutely nothing to scare me.
Team Selection v Leicester
Our team selection is going to cause some debate on the blogs between now and Sunday. The calls for changes were there before the Brighton game and given our performance in that game I expect more calls for changes. Unfortunately, we are forced to make a change at RB as Matty Cash has pulled his hamstring. I would choose to replace him with Guilbert but he is plying his trade in France now. Elmo is more or less guaranteed to start but I would actually move Konsa to RB and start Engels alongside Mings as the CB pairing.
With a forced change, I think the likelihood of Deano making tactical changes is reduced. So much so that I expect our normal team to be given another chance before changes are made. If we are poor against Leicester then I can see Smith making changes for our following game away to Leeds. But against Leicester, I think we will see a front 5 of Grealish, Barkley, McGinn, Traore and Watkins. Doug Luiz will be in behind them and a back 4 of Elmo, Konsa, Mings and Targett and the best GK in the PL starting between the sticks.
As a Villa fan, I do have a pair of claret & blue specs. And I tend to wear them when I am writing Leader Blogs about Villa. As such, I am looking at this game as the one where Dean Smith shows the Premier League exactly what we are made of. We will win this game having put in an excellent performance and Ross Barkley will be in the mix for MOTM. Also, Ollie Watkins will add to his goals tally.
What The Bookies Say
The bookies don’t have their claret & blue specs on and have Leicester as 7/5 favourites for the win. But they do have Villa priced at 15/8 so it is very close and so a tough game to call. Maybe the draw is the bet to make but this is a much longer 5/2. This all means the bookies haven’t a fcuken clue who will win but they expect goals. That means an exciting game on Sunday afternoon.
And The Other Games
There are 3 other games for us this weekend each has a bearing on relegation. First up is Burnley v Baggies and a win for the home team may well prove to be a big nail in the Baggies coffin. I think Big Sam has bought well in Jan and they are a better team than what he inherited. Mind you, that isn’t saying much as they really were dreadful. I feel this is an absolute must win for Big Sam. But as most teams in the PL have experienced, Burnley on their patch is a very difficult fixture. I am going for Burnley to continue their fine form with a 1-0 win.
Fulham host the Blades on Saturday night and I can’t see anything but a Fulham win. Blades are weak, Fulham play some nice football and should be too strong for them. 1-0 to Scott Parker.
To wrap it up Man Utd welcome Steve Bruce back to Old Trafford and will win this game 3-0. Bruce will obviously say there are positives to be taken from the second half in which they only conceded 1 goal. No doubt fault will also lie with the Toon away fans who were very quiet during the game and didn’t give the players the support they deserve.