Aston Villa v Fulham: Match Preview
Aston Villa v Fulham; Premier League; Villa Park; Saturday 10 March 2012; 15:00 KO
In-form Fulham travel to Villa Park hoping to make it four straight wins in the Premier League.
The Cottagers will be missing Stephen Kelly, Steve Sidwell and Zdenek Grygera through injury but welcome back Costan Rican midfielder Bryan Ruiz. Versatile defender Aaron Hughes is a doubt for the fixture but Martin Jol could give new signing Mahamadou Diarra a first start.
Fulham come into the match off the back of an excellent 5-0 victory over Wolves. In contrast, Villa are struggling to pick up points, especially at home where they’ve registered only 13 points from a possible 39 but Alex McLeish has no new injury concerns.
That means the Scot could name an unchanged side from the one that was held to a 1-1 draw at Blackburn. Long term injuries mean that England international Darren Bent (ankle), centre back Richard Dunne (collarbone) and young midfielder Fabian Delph (ankle) all miss out.
Villa are currently eight points clear of the relegation zone but McLeish has warned his side that they are not safe yet. Without a win in five games the Midlands club faces a crucial battle with Bolton later in the month before tough assignments against Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea.
Villa do have history on their side as Fulham are yet to win at Villa Park in ten Premier League attempts but new arrival Pavel Pogrebnyak has made an immediate impact in West London, firing Fulham to three straight wins.
Fulham manager Martin Jol paid tribute to the former Zenit striker bought in to replace Bobby Zamora.
“Pavel always wants to work. He stays longer on the pitch to work on his game. In games I think he realises that there’s a few players around him who can set him up for goals and he probably can’t believe his luck.”
The Russian’s fine form has helped Fulham ease their own relegation worries and the Craven Cottage club currently sit eighth. Villa find themselves 16th and without star striker Darren Bent for at least three months. As a result the goalscoring onus has fallen to Gabby Agbonlahor and the forward has called on Villa fans to back McLeish as they seek to secure Premier League survival.
He said: “The fans are entitled to their opinions but the chairman has made a choice in bringing the manager here and everyone has got to get behind him. I think it affects the players otherwise.”