Despite no football being played, the past week has been one of good news for Aston Villa.
Ezri Konsa has committed his future by signing a new contract; Ollie Watkins made his first cap for the England national side and managed to score a goal, but the news that will bring most pleasure to Villa fans is that Jack Grealish is back from injury and ready to play on Easter Sunday.
Villa will be looking to return to winning ways as they aim to complete their first league double over Fulham since 2009-2010, following their 3-0 win at Craven Cottage earlier this season.
Scott Parker’s men have won a lot of plaudits following a decent run of form, peaking with a 1-0 away to the league champions, Liverpool.
What can Aston Villa expect from Fulham on Sunday evening?
Let’s look at the stats
To begin, expected goals for and against provides a clear, but quick understanding on the performance of a side so far this season. The graph below compares expected goals for with expected goals against for every team so far this season.
As you can see, Fulham are slightly worse than average in terms of expected goals for and against.
That being said, the graph shows that they are unfortunate to be in the bottom three at this stage of the season as there are at least five teams that have a lower expected goals for and higher expected goals against. This would suggest that Fulham are playing well enough to create opportunities, but have not been clinical enough to see them out of the bottom three.
When focusing on Fulham’s expected goals for, it is worth looking deeper into the number of shot creating chances they are making and the amount of shots they are actually taking. The next graph shows this data.
The data is really quite impressive for Fulham, with them being above the league average for both shot creating actions and shots taken. When looking lower down in to the bottom left of the table, it is interesting to note that Fulham (347) have had more shots than teams such as Everton (271), Tottenham (319), Arsenal (345), and West Ham (343).
That being said, shots are not very useful if they are not resulting in goals and this is where the issues arise for Scott Parker and his Fulham side. This next graph compares the number of goals a team has scored with the number of goal creating chances they make.
With matches being won by goals scored, this is a graph that Scott Parker will be deeply concerned about, especially when comparing it to the graph looking at shots. While Fulham were performing well in terms of shots, they are near the bottom of the league in terms of goals scored and goal creating actions created.
If Fulham are going to survive relegation within the remaining quarter of the campaign, they are going to have to start converting more of their shots into goals.
The final question to consider when thinking about these shots turning into goals is, what Fulham player can be the provider of such needed goals?
This final graph looks at Fulham’s key players when it comes to the number of goals and assists this season.
Ademola Lookman has been the key player in the Fulham attack with the Englishman scoring four and assisting four so far this season. Fulham’s top goal scorer is Bobby Reid who has scored five goals this season, however, the forward has been sidelined for the past two games with injury.
Aleksandar Mitrovic will be looking to carry his form from the international break where he scored five goals in three games for Serbia.
Dean Smith has confirmed that Jack Grealish has been training all week and will be in contention for a return to the starting line-up - a much needed boost for all associated with the Villans.
Kourtney Hause and Wesley have also both returned to training following lengthy injuries, but are still lacking in match fitness.
As for Fulham, they will travel up to the Midlands without captain, Tom Cairney, who has been out since December. They will also be hoping for a return for Bobby Reid who has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury.
Who do you think should start for Aston Villa against Fulham? Fill in the form below and we will release a ‘Fans XI’ prior to kick-off.