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Aston Villa vs. Southampton, preview: Excellent, a relegation six-pointer

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Aston Villa supporters will be dreading the visit from Southampton. But it's essential to cling to hope...because that's about all there is right now.

Alex Livesey

There are few things more fun than a relegation six-pointer. Oh wait. Having a root canal without novocaine, that is one. Bumping into your ex after sitting in wet paint and having a piece of spinach stuck in your teeth. That sounds more fun. At this point, even listening to a bunch of talking heads debate the merits of Alex McLeish sounds like it might be more fun.

But, alas, we are stuck with Aston Villa hosting Southampton. If you're looking for a positive, here's one: Ron Vlaar returned to training this week, so he just might make an appearance. However, Darren Bent, Chris Herd, Marc Albrighton and Shay Given are all injured. Richard Dunne is dead, of course.

Some clubs relish the chance to rebound after a poor performance, and I think we can all agree that losing 3-1 to a side currently in League Two would be considered a poor performance. Alas, Villa are not one of those sides. Lambert's Lions are currently just one point above the drop, and one point above Southampton. Hosting them at home should be simple enough.

However, Villa aren't so great at this "bounce back" thing. Sure, they came back from the 4-1 reverse fixture at Southampton with that tremendous win against Manchester City in the Cup, but that's the last time we supporters have had such a big lift. The 8-0 defeat at Chelsea was followed by confidence-sucking defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and, of all clubs, Wigan Athletic. Is it even possible, at this point, to imagine a win after the disaster that was Tuesday?

And yet we must. Let's face it. We're not Barcelona fans. We're not even Manchester United fans. Villa supporters don't really know how it feels to have the confidence that their side will win. And that's a fate we must become resigned to, at least in these dark days.

There's no assurance of winning. But there's the possibility of a fantastic piece of trickery from Christian Benteke. Or a poaching of a goal -- with the ensuing celebration -- from Andreas Weimann. There's a chance Barry Bannan might finally put in a good corner or that Gabby Agbonlahor will leave the Southampton players for dead as he bursts up the flank. Hey, Brett Holman may even score one of those speculative shots from distance.

Hope. It's about all we got.