Swansea City can all but secure Premier League safety if they can see of the challenge of bottom club Aston Villa, who have not managed to win in four previous visits to the Liberty Stadium.
After twice coming from behind to draw level at Bournemouth last weekend, conceding a third proved terminal for Swansea as some errors at the back rendered their positive attacking play in vain. Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski had a rare bad day as he was partially at fault for two of the goals, while poor marking at a set-piece led to the winner, so as boss Francesco Guidolin returns to the touchline after a three-game absence he will hope to see his side cut out the mistakes.
Gylfi Sigurdsson is at present one of the most in-form players in the Premier League having scored seven goals in his last 11 appearances, but the man who really caught the eye at Bournemouth was the speedy Modou Barrow. The Gambia-born winger looked a threat whenever the ball came his way on the South coast and he will be confident of repeating that here against a Villa side that is looking rather sluggish defensively. His pace and direct running could make all the difference.
Although it is not saying much, Villa’s display in their last match at home to Tottenham was certainly an improvement on previous outings as they applied themselves better and made their title-chasing opponents work hard, but it did prevent them from suffering another defeat that pushes them closer to the relegation trapdoor. With just eight games remaining their consignment to the Championship is surely a question of when rather than if.
During his time in charge Remi Garde has refused to make sweeping changes to his side, but he must be disappointed at the attitude of his senior players including Joleon Lescott, Micah Richards and Gabriel Agbonlahor. These are people with proven pedigree, but they simply have not delivered. As for this one, it will surely be a game that Garde will be targeting for three points in order to raise any faint hopes, but concede the first goal here and it may well be another lost cause.
The home side have Jefferson Montero available again after illness, but fellow winger Andre Ayew misses out because of an ankle problem.
Carlos Sanchez is back from injury for Aston Villa, but Jack Grealish and Adama Traore still have some time to wait to get back to full fitness.
Last Meeting: Gylfi Sigurdsson scored the only goal as Swansea triumphed over goal-shy Villa on Boxing Day 2014. The Iceland international curled a fine free-kick past Brad Guzan in the 13th minute to cap a dominant first half performance from the hosts, who did have to withstand pressure after the break. Christian Benteke was kept out superbly by Lukasz Fabianski late on as Swansea held on for the points.