So last week Aston Villa — by a considerable margin the best Cleveland football team in the universe — lost for the first time this season. Which is probably unfortunate for Blackburn, the team facing Villa this weekend, since Villa is pesky and not about to drop two matches in a row. Soccer Spot is holding it down once again. His preview of the match follows.
While Aston Villa is currently hoping to recover form after their 3-1 defeat at Liverpool last weekend, Blackburn are coming off a 3 goal victory in European competition on Thursday. The only benefit this can possibly have for Villa is that Blackburn might be a step slow due to fatigue. Currently Villa sits 10 points behind league leaders Manchester United while Blackburn is 11th on 12 points. Blackburn have a good forward line and a decent backline, so Villa will certainly have to bring some sort of game to get away with a victory.
Aston Villa had, until Saturday’s loss, been the only remaining undefeated team in the Premiership, but sit in 7th on 15 points after 10 games thanks to six draws. While they’ve tied both Arsenal and Chelsea away already this season, but they’ve also drawn at Villa Park to Fulham and a mediocre Tottenham team (all four games finished 1-1). Milan Baros and Juan Pablo Angel have yet to truly mesh in the attacking line (generally they are accompanied by Gabriel Agbonlahor in a 4-3-3 formation) and they need to step up in order to keep up the hopes for a 2007-2008 European adventure. In terms of home advantage, Villa has yet to lose at Villa Park, turning in a record of 3-2-0.
Blackburn has lost their last 3 EPL encounters, but has so far been strong in European competition, going 3-1-0 so far over the course of UEFA Cup qualifying and group stage action. Their 3-0 victory over Basle, a solid if not great Swiss side, is a good step towards recovering their current EPL form, which, away from home is 0-2-2, including last Sunday’s 2-1 loss away to a woeful West Ham squad (it can’t be denied that West Ham should be doing better than they are and perhaps last weekend was a warning that they’re going to begin to turn in good performances, making Blackburn’s loss merely a result of circumstances rather than lack of ability).
Barring injury or fatigue, I can’t see why both teams won’t start the same teams they started in their previous matches, with the exception of Gavin McCann returning in midfield in place of Isaiah Osbourne (why you’d replace a player with a name like that, I’ll never know).
Aston Villa: Sorensen, Barry, Bouma, Hughes, Mellberg, McCann, Ridgewell, Petrov, Agbonlahor, Angel Baros. (It is possible that Steven Davis will get a start in the midfield)
Blackburn: Friedel, Gray, Khizanishvili, Neill, Ooijer, Bentley, Tugay, Pedersen, Savage, McCarthy, Nonda (Francis Jeffers could get a start)
I’ll try to update the lineups as they come out with injury reports throughout tomorrow and Saturday, but probably won’t have the time to confirm them before 9am on Sunday. As always, you can stream the match here.
Aston Villa 2-1 Blackburn. At home the Lions are just too good for a mediocre-to-bad road team like Blackburn. I expect Martin O’Neill to get the squad back to its old tricks after suffering defeat for the first time and they should come out with guns blazing, hoping to catch Blackburn early to set the tempo of the game.