BOLTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10: Kevin Davies (R) of Bolton Wanderers and Stiliyan Petrov of Aston Villa lay wreaths in memory of the late Gary Speed prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Bolton Wanderers and Aston Villa at Reebok Stadium on December 10, 2011 in Bolton, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
Setting the Narrative is a weekly look at the coming days in the life of Aston Villa Football Club. Here are your storylines for the week of April 2nd:
The health of Stiliyan Petrov will obviously weigh heavy on the minds and hearts of Aston Villa and the club's supporters. By all accounts, Petrov has a long and difficult road ahead of him. Most of us know someone who has suffered from leukaemia, and too many of us will know people who have succumbed to it. There will come a time when we will be concerned by matters that are more imminent, that will seem more pressing. I'm about to write about them. None of that could possibly be more important than Stiliyan Petrov making a complete recovery. всичко най-хубаво, Stan.
Now for a bit of pessimism. Aston Villa are not at all as safe as the victory over Fulham made us think, particularly given the losses of key players at exactly the wrong time. If Villa's remaining fixtures haven't already been burnt into your mind like a particularly long-winded cattle brand, they are: away at Liverpool, home to Stoke City, away at Manchester United, home to Sunderland and Bolton (thankfully, not at the same time), and a final trip to the Hawthorns to face local rivals West Bromwich Albion.
Here is a list of injured players: Stiliyan Petrov (out indefinitely), Alan Hutton (out for the next two matches), Charles N'Zogbia (out for the next three matches), Darren Bent (out for the season), Fabian Delph (out for the season), Ciaran Clark (out for the next two matches), Richard Dunne (out for the next match.) If you thought seeing a lot of unknown kids on the bench was fun, get ready to see them out on the pitch sooner rather than later.
There are a scattered few silver linings in the midst of this dark cloud. Aston Villa do have a game in hand on the bottom three, and a five point cushion. If it comes down to goal difference, Villa's is less than half of any other relegation rival. If you were looking to thank Alex McLeish for something, that'd be it.
In most cases, I'd say Aston Villa are fine. But in most cases, we have a fit squad and don't have the toughest run-in of the bottom five. What I would like to see is a club that bands together and fights their way out of trouble (see Wigan Athletic under Roberto Martinez.) What I fear is that the coaches and the players are disinterested, the supporters are going out of their way to antagonize the club, and Aston Villa may well slouch their way into the Championship, in the manner of McLeish's limp end to last season with Birmingham.
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