There were such high hopes heading into this string of games for Aston Villa, with over a month's worth of strong performances beginning to give the impression that this was a club very much on the precipice of turning a corner. And though Villa's quality hasn't really dropped off over the past two games, it's difficult to call the results anything other than a disappointment. Apologies for harping on about this quite a bit lately, but it hasn't stopped being true; it's been awhile since playing decent football was really much of a reason to be excited, and until Villa start winning winnable games, the malaise is going to persist. And lo and behold, Crystal Palace at home would seem to fit the "winnable game" bill to a T.
There is a wild card with Palace however, in the perfectly-coiffed shape of Alan Pardew. It's unknown whether or not he'll actually be on the sideline for this game, but it's hard not to see how the former Newcastle boss' arrival wouldn't give his new side a boost. And Palace will certainly need one, currently sitting 18th in the table and having gone winless since November 23rd. There's still plenty of time for Pardew to turn things around and certainly Palace fans will see Aston Villa as a game from which they can earn a positive result, but this is a team Villa are more than capable of beating at home-new manager boost or no.
The difference will, as always, be in Villa's ability to put the ball-preferably balls-into the opposition's net. There's a lot of luck that goes into scoring goals and it's almost impossible to score just 11 goals in 19 games without that luck being pretty terrible. Villa's expected goals total for the season so far is 19, which is still quite bad but significantly better than the tally they've put up. Converting such a low percentage of the chances they create just doesn't seem as though it can possibly last, and facing off against a side that has allowed more goals than all but three other teams can only help matters. At least one would hope that would be the case.
I'm still pretty well convinced that this team is performing about as well as you'd expect a comfortably mid-table side to perform, and that they're going to get through the season without finding themselves ever landing in real danger of being relegated. But every game that they should win and don't chips away at the likelihood of that happening, and it makes their potential more and more irrelevant. Villa need wins, and if there's any hope of going on a run and winning the fanbase back to Paul Lambert's side, they need them now.