Aston Villa Focus - Weekend results change shape of relegation battle
After two defeats in a row in the league, Aston Villa had to play the only two teams below them in the league in Reading and Queens Park Rangers, needing a minimum of two wins to give them any chance of survival; and they got it.
After going behind in the first half in both games, Villa’s young squad could have let their heads drop and accept defeat, as they have done in previous matches throughout the season. That would not be the case this time round, as a tenacity and new determination not to lose seems to be sweeping through the Villa ranks of recent weeks, a determination that manager Paul Lambert said they would need if they were to stay up.
The dramatic 3-2 success over QPR on Saturday showed to the Villa fans what might have been had the Villa players shown that same determination in other games during the campaign.
Villa had lost four of their last five home games going into the QPR match. In several of those, Villa had not seemed capable of surviving the relegation dogfight. With two 'six-pointers' won back-to-back, Villa can now start to look up instead of down in the Premier League table.
It is just above them where the relegation story is starting to change. Two weeks ago, many fans and pundits alike would have put money on the three relegated teams to be between the bottom four: Wigan Athletic, Reading, QPR and Aston Villa.
Other teams above them looked to have a good enough cushion not to worry, but results over the past fortnight have certainly changed matters. QPR’s recent turn around in fortunes have seen them move to 23 points, and produce the stat that if the league had started in January, they would currently be sitting in 9th place in the table pushing for a European spot.
With Wigan earning a last minute win against Newcastle on Sunday, and Reading only as recently as January earning a manager of the month award for the now departed Brian McDermott, the bottom three are certainly not going down without a fight.
This recent resurgence of the bottom three has seen them catch up to the teams placed above them. Stoke, who are currently one place and two points of top half in 11th, are now certainly far from safe, as just four points separates themselves and 17th-placed Aston Villa.
As the Premier League now enters its final eight games of the season, it is clear that any of the bottom half of the league may still be in trouble. Villa are still to play four of those said teams, and Fulham, who sit just above them in 10th place, as well as tough matches against Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United.
Whilst Villa may still be leading candidates for relegation, those six points earned in their last two games could prove crucial to the outcome of the relegation fight this season, and could worry several of the teams just above them.
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