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Aston Villa vs. West Ham Premier League Preview: Win and safety is nearly guaranteed

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With so many what-ifs in the book, it's time for Villa to take their run-in into their own hands.

Alvin Taylor

There are so many "what ifs" right now. What if Christian Benteke hadn't erroneously been flagged offside at Manchester City? What if Aston Villa hadn't given up three goals to almost-sure-to-be-relegated QPR at Villa Park? What if Ron Vlaar hadn't suddenly had a stroke and given up a penalty against Stoke?

And that's just in the Tim Sherwood era, and it ignores losing 1-0 to a Newcastle team who have not even gotten a draw since. Those three matches could have changed the face of this season. Get the correct call against City and Benteke draws a penalty, Joe Hart sees red, and Villa win 2-3. Three extra points in the books. Keep one of the mind-numbingly stupid goals out against QPR and it's 3-2. Two more points. Don't be a baffling idiot against Stoke, Ron Vlaar, and we're one point to the better. Right there, three matches, six points that it takes no real effort to see Villa getting. We'd be sitting on 41 right now and virtually assured of safety.

But instead, Aston Villa are on 35 as West Ham come to Villa Park this weekend. The numbers say that if they can get a win they'll probably be safe. Sure, we'll all be nervous anyways because that's how we Villa fans naturally are, but it'll be a more background nervousness that we all accept as part of our natural state now. A win probably seals up safety.

And a win against West Ham is a very doable thing. In their past four matches, Aston Villa have beaten Tottenham, Liverpool, and Everton and outplayed Manchester City. West Ham are not as good as any of those clubs. When the two teams met in November, West Ham were in 5th while Villa were in 16th. A win for the Hammers that day saw them leap into 4th place after 11 matches had been played. Sam Allardyce's club would eventually climb all the way to third by beating Swansea on December 7.

And then the clock struck midnight. Since then the Hammers have slowly fallen out of contention for a top-6 spot, but they have never dropped out of the top half of the league. Nevertheless, they've only put together three wins in the calendar year after their swoon began by a loss to Chelsea on Boxing Day has led to a 3-7-8 record since then.

That's not great. But neither is it absolutely terribly bad. What makes it worse is the fact that those three wins have come against Hull, Sunderland, and Burnley. This is not a team who are beating strong opposition lately. And while Villa's position on the table and still-looming relegation danger would make you think they're bad, they've actually been playing like a top-half team for about a month.

So this is a match that Villa should win. But we've had so many what-ifs lately that it's hard not to be worried. If Tim Sherwood's side can play like they have in the past four weeks, beating West Ham shouldn't be an issue. But if they play like they did against QPR, Stoke, or Newcastle, we may have to keep fervently worrying about relegation for another week.

Let's not do that, Villa. Just get the win, please.