For a good portion of this Premier League season, it looked like the final day meeting between Aston Villa and Burnley could decide the fate of at least one of the clubs. But, with Villa already safe, and Burnley assured of relegation, it's a somewhat meaningless match. However, both teams do have incentives to win it.
While Tim Sherwood's side has a much more important game looming just a week away, there is an argument to be made for resting some of the starters. Originally I thought that was the right idea. But, after getting dismantled last week 6-1 at the hands of Southampton, the team needs to regain some momentum. Also, Sherwood may want to use Gabby Agbonlahor in the FA Cup Final, so working him back into the lineup alongside Christian Benteke to bring back the strike partnership we saw early in the Sherwood era. The pair, along with Jack Grealish behind them, should be able to get the better of Burnley central defenders Michael Duff and Jason Shackell. Clarets central midfielders David Jones and Dean Marney will have to work to track back and contain the pair.
The back four (five, if you count Heaton) may consider themselves unlucky that they are part of the crew on a sinking ship. The Clarets have shipped a joint-fifth worst 53 league goals this season (as many as Tottenham Hotspur), but have been let down by their teammates who should be scoring. Despite Danny Ings hitting double digit goals, Sean Dyche's side has netted just 27 times all year. Ashley Barnes and George Boyd also have five each, meaning three players are responsible for 74 percent of the team's goals. (Benteke/Agbonlahor/Cleverley have 22/31 for Villa, or 71%)
Central midfield has been the worst area of the pitch for Burnley. Although the attack went cold at the end of the season when they managed just two goals in their last 11 matches, the midfield needs to supply the strikers with quality service. Some of this match will hinge on the one-on-one matchups out wide -- George Boyd vs. Kieran Richardson or another Aston Villa left back, and Sam Arfield vs. Leandro Bacuna. If the Burnley men can come out better off, it will lead to chances to cross the ball in. However, if these Burnley midfielders don't tuck in and help their central midfielders, Villa will see the lion's share of possession. Fabian Delph and Tom Cleverley have been combining brilliantly with Jack Grealish, and everyone in the team seems capable of getting the ball to Benteke. Grealish dropping deep to create a diamond in the Aston Villa midfield could mean a long final Premier League™ day for David Jones and Dean Marney.
Where do you think the crucial area of the pitch is? Let us know in the comments!