Aston Villa will be desperate to close the gap between themselves and safety by claiming a first home win of the season over Watford, who are hoping to avoid a third successive loss.
After a massively encouraging display which brought a battling goalless draw with title hopefuls Manchester City, and newfound optimism at Aston Villa was almost totally eroded by a shambolic effort at Everton last weekend. Let down by some shocking defending, they created few chances and were soundly beaten, with their many limitations ruthlessly exposed in a punishing first half. On that evidence, a lot has to change if they are to stand any chance of avoiding the drop.
As a side that rarely looks likely to score at present, they will not be best pleased to see Watford on the other side of the halfway line, as the newly promoted side have become a difficult team to play against and are compact at the back. Make a bad start and the home supporters will make their ill feelings known, so it is crucial that the likes of Scott Sinclair and Jordan Ayew are given service in the early stages and are allowed to run at the away defence.
After good performances against the two teams that are now leading the Premier League, Watford will be frustrated to have lost both, but they can take comfort from the fact that it was only very fine margins which saw them slip to defeat on each occasion. At Leicester City it was a goalkeeping error that let them down, while an own goal from Troy Deeney in the final minute of normal time accounted for them against Manchester United.
That was particularly galling for Deeney, who had equalised just moments earlier from the penalty spot and had thought that he had earned the point his side richly deserved. Watford already have two impressive away wins to their name this season and will more than like their chances of picking up another. If they score the first goal, they will very much be in the driving seat and only increase the anxiety that exists at an increasingly sombre Villa Park.
Jack Grealish will not play a part in this fixture after being relegated from the Villa first-team squad due to his off-field behaviour. Defender Jores Okore could make his first appearance of the season.
Watford are likely to still be without midfielder Valon Behrami, but otherwise have no new injury concerns to contend with.
Last Meeting: The longest run without a win for Villa in the tenure of Martin O’Neill came to an end in January 2007 as they dispatched Watford 2-0 with two goals in the closing stages. Milan Baros had passed up two clear chances, but the unlucky visitors were finally breached on 86 minutes when Gavin Mahon deflected a Gavin McCann shot into his own net. Gabriel Agbonlahor finished confidently for the second in stoppage time.
Played for both – Ashley Young: The exciting winger had helped Watford to promotion from the Championship in 2006 and made an impact on the Premier League by scoring three goals in 20 appearances. This earned him a move to Villa in January 2007, and he was to become a vitally important player as he helped them to a League Cup final and three successive sixth-placed finishes before leaving in 2011.
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