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Villa v. QPR Preview: Time to panic ahead of a six-pointer

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Tuesday's contest with Queens Park Rangers is so, so, so important for Villa. I'm a little terrified.

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At the risk of sounding like an American sorority girl appropriating British culture…

Keep calm and carry on.

Actually, you know what? Trying to keep calm ahead of Tuesday's crucial six-pointer with QPR isn't going to happen so let's not even try.

It's panic time.

After Sunderland beat Newcastle United again because the Magpies are worthless and Burnley drew yesterday against Tottenham Hotspur (thanks, guys), Aston Villa sit 17th, just two points above the drop zone with seven to play.

72 hours ago, I was feeling pretty good about Villa's chances. Now I'm terrified. In addition to Burnley and Sunderland's results, tomorrow's opponents got a win at West Bromwich Albion (who are terrible; I have absolutely no idea how they have 33 points… they're easily the worst team I've seen in the league this year) while Leicester City also bundled home a late goal to beat West Ham United.

Amongst the serious relegation candidates, only Hull failed to pick up points this weekend. Well, and Villa.

I entered this weekend thinking QPR was a must-not-lose game and now I think it's turning into a must-win one.

A loss for Villa drops the Claret and Blues into the bottom three with just six games left. That would be miserable, especially with trips to Spurs and Manchester City looming on the horizon.

But while a loss would be devastating, it's the type of match Villa have to win.

In the seven final games, Tim Sherwood's men will take the Villa Park pitch four times — against QPR, Everton, West Ham and Burnley — and that's where they'll write the script for their season. (The final road trip is to Southampton on the penultimate weekend of the campaign)

All four of those games are winnable — perhaps the middle two a little more difficult, especially with the Toffees creeping back into form — and a trio of wins would surely see the Claret and Blues to safety.

But if you don't get one of those wins off the bat against Rangers tomorrow, you start pressing. And more often than not, that's where things go bad.

When Sherwood was appointed the "headmaster" at Villa Park, we heard enough bad things from Tottenham supporters about their club's former manager.

As far as positives went? I picked out two.

The first was that Sherwood took the reigns off the team and let them play — and that's where being able to resist the urge to press for results is nice. Villa went out loose against WBA and Sunderland and bagged eight goals in the span of three games. That's really good. Because more than anything, they just played. That has to continue, no matter the stage.

But the second was the thing I'm hoping will see Villa safe — at Spurs, Sherwood's teams beat teams worse than them and lost to those better than them.

So far during his tenure in B6? It's been pretty much exactly the same story.

And that absolutely has to continue if Villa want to stay up in this division. The way they're playing against the top sides, I don't think I see anything coming from the three road trips. So they've got to bear down, at least beat QPR and Burnley, and hope something comes from the rest of it.

QPR does scare me though — perhaps more than they should — because they have a striker they're going to know can be amongst the goals. Charlie Austin bagged his 16th Premier League goal this season and if not for the greatness of Harry Kane, he'd probably be the most-raved about youngster in England.

He scored twice against Villa the first time around and if Rangers are to win, I'd expect him to be the guy that gets it done for them.

But on Villa's side, Sherwood has a consistent goalscorer of his own to turn to in Christian Benteke. Fluke goal or not Saturday at Old Trafford, Benteke netted his fourth in as many games. His performances haven't been that great the last two times out, sure, but confidence is everything for a striker. If he has it, it'd be nice for Villa. He scored the winner in March 2013 when these two last met in Birmingham; doing the same tomorrow would go a long way toward seeing Villa safe again and QPR down, just like two years ago.

The other guy that terrifies me? Joey Barton. Because he's damn well capable of baiting a Claret and Blue into doing something stupid.

But, you know, we'll see what happens tomorrow. I'm terrified — though more of my Physics test in the morning than this match right now.

And maybe going back to that first thought, panicking is the preferred emotion right now. That reckless abandonment to which support is thrown about could be really nice at Villa Park tomorrow. The crowd's gotta be loud man and get behind the team.

Up the Villa.

P.S. – Every QPR supporter I've ever met has been super nice. I feel bad for them; they play in a miserable, run down ground and they're turning into a yo-yo club. But if it makes Villa's chances of survival better, I'm all for sending them plummeting again.