Last updated & checked: 10/08/2021
17th meets 18th at Villa Park, as these sides come into the weekend looking for a result that will mean they don’t spend Christmas morning in the relegation zone. Under boss Dean Smith, Villa have probably marginally outperformed expectations, and a win here could give them separation from a bottom three that they are currently evading on goal difference alone.
For the visitors, a win in this one would allow them to haul themselves out of the bottom three. They are currently level on points with their opponents here, but worse off in the goal difference column to the tune of eleven goals. That’s down to the Saints having the league’s worst defence, statistically. Ralph Hasenhuttl will be hoping that he can end a run of two straight defeats which followed wins against Watford and Norwich. Those consecutive victories account for half of the games they’ve won this season.
Aston Villa vs Southampton Prediction: Aston Villa 2-2 Southampton
Often, for a team struggling in this sector of the table, the problem is that they’re not able to score goals, but that’s not been a huge issue for either of these sides. Villa have been able to find the net regularly, with an attacking midfield that contains talents like Jack Grealish and John McGinn, while Southampton boast, in Danny Ings, one of the Premier League’s in-form strikers. Neither team here, however, can boast a convincing defence, and there’s the rub. It’s hard to pick up the points that will keep you in the top flight when your defence is less robust than a balsa-wood boardwalk.
Our recommended tip: Draw & BTTS
Putting three points between yourself and the relegation zone in the last fixtures before the big Boxing Day calendar would be a very pleasant feeling, but there is every chance that neither of these sides will find the win that allows them to do just that. Villa have home advantage and have certainly been more productive going forward than their visitors here, but it’s what they do when they get that lead that’s of more concern. Coral have odds of 16/5 on the game ending in a score draw, and that seems to be where this one is headed.
Villa are fresh back in the Premier League after a three-season stretch outside of it, so there is no surprise in the fact that these sides last met in 2016, three weeks from the end of the season. At that stage, Villa were already very much a relegated team and they played like one, as a Southampton side gunning for a European spot came to Villa Park and took a 2-0 lead through Dusan Tadic and Shane Long. Ashley Westwood pulled one back for Villa, and replied again after Tadic had re-established the gap, but in time added on Sadio Mane supplied a fourth and decisive goal for Southampton. He’s gone on to good things.
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Players to watch: Conor Hourihane & Danny Ings
A regular in midfield for Villa and now also for his native Ireland, Hourihane is a gifted ball-player who can control the tempo of a game – and is likely to be called upon to increase that role in the likely absence of McGinn for this game. The cultured Hourihane was one of Villa’s star turns as they hammered an admittedly callow Liverpool side 5-0 in the Carabao Cup this midweek, and if he wants to show that kind of control in a Premier League match, this is a pretty good opportunity.
There is nothing revolutionary about the way Ings plays centre-forward. Before his short, injury-blighted spell at Liverpool, he played the same position for Burnley, so you know what you’re getting. The thing is, he’s exceptionally effective at it – dominating physical space, not leaving defenders alone for a moment and putting his feet, head and any other available part of him into the mix if there’s the least chance it may lead to a goal. It usually does, which accounts for his nine Premier League goals this season.