Villa join fight for Premier League survival

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Aston Villa are a club in free-fall. With one win from their last 13 games, and a return of just 13 points in the Premier League since the turn of the year, the club's top-flight status is at serious risk this season.

Sitting precariously three points above the drop-zone, and with two away games from three remaining fixtures, the signs do not look good for Alex McLeish's relegation threatened side.

Last night, while the football world watched Chelsea's triumphant Champions League display against Barcelona in awe, the events that were unfolding closer to home, at Villa Park, passed unspectacularly under the radar.

But, the impact of the result - a 2-1 away victory for fellow strugglers Bolton Wanderers - could be equally instrumental in the outcome of the 2011-12 campaign.

In a crazy three minute spell right at the start of the second-half, all three goals were scored, as Villa's desperate season edged closer to becoming a full blown disaster.

The hosts took the lead through Stephen Warnock, before the Trotters responded with a 50 second brace to plunge the club deep into a relegation dog-fight.

Even more worryingly, is the fact that Villa now boast the worst home record in their entire history - in any division - and having dropped the joint-most points from winning positions of any team in the Premier League this season, talks of a crisis are no exaggeration.

The fans' complete lack of confidence in the manager - a man who arrived last summer after crossing the divide from fierce rivals Birmingham City - seems to have transmitted to the players, who look devoid of any fresh ideas to help try and turn the tide.

Villa's long injury list hardly helps either. The season-ending set-back for the club's leading goalscorer Darren Bent has left the club without any real firepower upfront. And, McLeish's stubborn determination to continue deploying players out of position, isn't improving the situation.

The statistics are certainly starting to stack up against the most unpopular manager the club has ever appointed.

After all, McLeish is within sight of a third relegation from the Premier League in four years, following two with the Blues, so it is difficult to see how he will ever win over a fan base that was sceptical about his credentials from day one.

Despite insisting he retains the full backing of American owner Randy Lerner, the manner of Villa's slow decline ever since the departure of Martin O'Neill just days before the start of the 2010-11 campaign, with the summer sales of Ashley Young, Stewart Downing, and Brad Friedel, further adding to the growing unrest all around the Midlands club.

"I can understand the fans' reaction," said McLeish glumly in his post-match interview. "They were as frustrated as I was, especially after going into a well-deserved lead.

"We had good impetus but to see it turn like that was horrible. It was a kick in the guts. We realise there are nine points to play for and it's in our hands."

McLeish has hardly helped his own situation. A combination of negative tactics, and poor team selection has destroyed confidence in the dressing room.

Meanwhile, the absence of talismanic captain Stiliyan Petrov - who was diagnosed with acute leukaemia last month - as well as natural defensive leaders Richard Dunne and James Collins for large parts of the season, has left Villa short of any real inspiration.

Next up is a trip to The Hawthorns to face an in-form West Brom side - there will hardly be any love lost in that local derby - before then hosting Tottenham in the penultimate game of the season, before a final day trip to Carrow Road to play Norwich City.

With clubs at the bottom all starting to pick up vital points, it will be imperative for McLeish to oversee an upturn in form, otherwise the fear that Aston Villa will be condemned to Championship football next season will quickly become a reality.

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