Let’s just get this over with.
It’s all pretty simple for Aston Villa this weekend.
The Claret and Blues play first, and with a win over Southampton in the lunchtime kickoff, they will secure their survival. Easy enough.
Villa will also stay up if Hull City lose to Tottenham at 3 p.m., while another year of top-flight football will also be secured if the Villans draw and the Tigers fail to win.
But, as much as Tim Sherwood’s talked about it, we’ll all know he wants to get the job done on our own terms; the first of those options.
Villa are a team in form while Southampton, well, aren’t. The Saints sit 7th, just one point ahead of Swansea for the final potential Europa League spot, and have just one point from the last 12 on offer, losing in consecutive weeks to Sunderland and Leicester City.
I don’t particularly need to tell you that Aston Villa are playing well at the moment; as someone reading this preview, you already know this, but it’s nevertheless an important thing to note heading into tomorrow’s match.
We’ll go head-to-head with a Southampton side I don‘t know what to make of. Obviously, they’ve struggled down the stretch to play their way out of Champions League contention, and the more and more I’ve seen of them recently, the more and more I start to think they don’t want any part of the Europa League.
(Note: This would be a weird thing. If Southampton are actively putting in half-shifts to avoid the Europa League, that would be stupid.)
Above anything else, they just haven’t looked like the same side they were earlier in the year. Part of that might just be the natural dip in form any side is going to undergo, but their performances as of late haven’t been too brilliant.
And when you’re a side like Villa are, to win, you probably need the better sides to struggle. Sure, Tim Sherwood has Christian Benteke in his arsenal, but aside from that, Saints probably have the better player at most other positions on the pitch.
(Okay, Tom Cleverley is also ours, which is a good thing.)
If Southampton come out rejuvenated, ready to go after European football for next year, it’s going to be a tough ask for Villa to win the game. It’ll be an open game, and I’m not entirely sure I feel confident in the Villa defence to not completely implode like it has against QPR, Manchester City or even Everton.
But, regardless, I think we’ll see Sherwood come out guns blazing, with a side ready to play an open game if that’s what the hosts want to do. Away from home, we’ve seen Villa take the game to Spurs and City, and in reality, there’s no reason we can’t see that again tomorrow at the St. Mary’s.
Most of us, I’m sure, share in the hope that Villa can secure survival on their own terms tomorrow; leaving it up in the air for any longer period of time only adds to the nerves, and keeps focus away from the FA Cup Final in 15 days’ time. Having the opportunity to play that Burnley match on the final day in a calm, relaxed, jubilant fashion would be a really nice thing.
And that’s where this match comes in. It’s not the end of the world if Villa lose, but my nerves’ll take a step up during Hull’s match tomorrow afternoon if they do.
Because damnit, I want survival secured this weekend.
Get it done, Villa.