In recent times, any day that includes a ‘y’ has brought stress and anxiety to many Aston Villa supporters but this Sunday will bring nerves and tension to living rooms and pubs, the likes of which won’t have been experienced since recent second-city derbies or play-off matches. This one is huge!
The Villans travel to the capital to face West Ham, a game that had the potential of being a relegation showdown. Luckily for Villa, West Ham are secure in the league and two out of us, Watford and Bournemouth will be playing Championship football next season, along with already down Norwich.
The importance of this match is as great as I can remember, in my time as a Villa supporter and the careers of many of the players rides on this 90 minutes ahead. Do they go on to establish themselves as Premier League players or do they drop down a division with risk of never returning to the promised land?
Dean Smith has one significant injury to note – Ahmed Elmohamady had to be replaced in the last outing and he won’t feature against the Hammers. However, his replacement Frédéric Guilbert impressed against Arsenal – I’m sure many Villans have missed his trademark sliding tackles. Same again Sunday please, Freddie.
West Ham come into the game in fine form having won seven points from their last three games, securing their place in the Premier League. David Moyes’ squad has received a boost in the week after the club announced commanding midfielder Tomáš Souček has signed permanently, after a successful loan period.
In the reverse fixture, in September, the points were shared after a 0-0 draw. Villa looked the better side that night but Arthur Masuaku’s sending off seemed to halt Villa’s momentum and gave the Hammers more drive to see the game out.
The two sides have met late in the season before. April 2011 saw Gabby Agbonlahor score an injury-time winner at Upton Park in a season that saw the Irons relegated.
View Across The Dugout
West Ham are safe after a good point at Old Trafford. How do you think this will affect your performance on Sunday?
I think we were safe before the game really, yet the boys still put in a shift and gave a very good United side a good game. We probably should have won.
Michail Antonio is in fine form, can you see him bagging another on the last day of the season?
Sorry to say but he’s in a rich vain of form and he’s hungry for more. There’s rumours of all kind of bonuses per goal he scores so that is added motivation for him.
Safety is now confirmed, but how do you rate David Moyes’ season overall? Do you keep him for next season?
Going back to Moyes, at first, seemed like a backwards step but he has steadied the ship and got us playing attractive football. The signings he made in January (Bowen and Souček) were nothing short of a managerial masterclass.
Declan Rice is attracting a lot of interest from some top clubs, how important is it that you hold onto him?
It’s crucial for everyone at the club that we keep Dec. He is playing the best football of his career so far and is learning and growing game by game. We need to build a team around him and Moyes sees him as our next captain.
Where do you see Villa’s main threats coming from?
Trézéguet has looked hungry in your run in. Grealish will always cause problems but he hasn’t really been up to his usual standards since project restart. Douglas Luiz is a general in that midfield too.
What’s your predicted XI?
Fabiański, Johnson, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Rice, Souček, Noble, Bowen, Antonio, Fornals.
Villa have won away at West Ham on the last day of the season before, what’s your score prediction?
Yes I remember that well…it’s a hard one to judge but I can see a score draw, a lot of goals so a 2-2 or 3-3 draw.
I like Villa and hope you lot stay up but not by beating us! Come on Arsenal against Watford and Everton against Bournemouth!
Villa are unbeaten in their last three and we played superbly at Goodison Park but were unlucky not to come away with all three points. We did what we had to do against a misfiring Arsenal side to climb out of the bottom three. I think Smith will have the boys firing on all cylinders for this crucial match and we’ll draw 1-1, enough to keep the mighty Villans in the Premier League.
By Tom Hartley.