Aston Villa host a winnable game against West Ham, but it's certainly going to be far from easy. West Ham's form hasn't been the best as of late, but a 1-0 win over Swansea City last weekend put to rest any fears of getting dragged into the relegation battle and moved them firmly into the middle of the table. If Aston Villa can play as well for a whole 90 minutes as they did for the first 75 against Everton, they'll be in pretty good shape. But if they'd shown an ability to do that with any regularity, I wouldn't have to write the next paragraphs.
Elsewhere in the relegation battle this weekend, Wigan outperformed expectations against Chelsea, but still fell 4-1 in defeat. Wigan still has an edge over Villa in terms of goal difference, but it's now just five goals which is much better than it looked a few weeks ago. The QPR revolution hit yet another snag at the Liberty Stadium, as Harry Redknapp's side was thumped 4-1 by Swansea. Rangers are six points away from safety and remain four behind Villa, and it's tougher and tougher to see them pulling off a miracle. Stoke managed to hang on against Reading by a score of 2-1, and with the loss the Royals stay just two points ahead of Villa. Leapfroggin' distance! In terms of teams still technically in the battle but only on the fringes, Newcastle fell to Spurs 2-1 at White Hart Lane and Southampton may very well have clinched safety with a shocking 3-1 win over Manchester City at St. Mary's.
So, of five results with an impact on the relegation battle, four went well. Not too shabby. Now it's time for Villa to do their part, which, uh, well.
Aston Villa Starting XI: Brad Guzan, Matthew Lowton, Ron Vlaar [c], Ciaran Clark, Nathan Baker, Ashley Westwood, Fabian Delph, Charles N'Zogbia, Jordan Bowery, Andi Weimann, Christian Benteke.
Substitutes (from): Shay Given, Yacouba Sylla, Darren Bent, Bannan, Brett Holman, Simon Dawkins, Joe Bennett.
West Ham United Starting XI: Jussi Jaaskelainen, Emanuel Pogotez, Winston Reid, Tomkins, Joey O'Brien, Mohamed Diame, Mark Noble, Kevin Nolan, Joe Cole, Matthew Taylor, Andy Carroll.
Substitutes (from): Matt Jarvis, Carlton Cole, Ricardo Vaz Te, Guy Demel, Marouane Chamakh, Raphael Speigel.
That's the first league start for Jordan Bowery. Also, Andi and Benteke up top from the start? I like.