Aston Villa v Southampton – Match preview and team news

Villa Park will play host to a crucial encounter between two teams threatened by relegation as struggling Aston Villa will attempt to salvage the wreckage of their rapidly collapsing season by taking a vital three points at home to Southampton. The Saints have been in decent form of late and will be buoyed by the fact that in the reverse fixture earlier this season, Rickie Lambert inspired Nigel Adkins’ men to their first win of the season by a 4-1 scoreline.

Paul Lambert could have central-defender and captain Ron Vlaar fit again after a prolonged absence with a calf injury and that could provide a huge boost to his ailing team, who have shipped 21 goals in their last six games, including Tuesday night’s embarrassing 3-1 defeat to League 2 outfit Bradford in the Capital One Cup semi-finals, to give them the worst defensive record currently in the Premier League.

Elsewhere, Brett Holman is fighting for a place in the XI after recovering from illness but experienced duo Darren Bent and Shay Given miss out with knee and hamstring injuries respectively, joining Marc Albrighton, Ashley Westwood and Richard Dunne on the fitness table.

Southampton are unbeaten in their last three Premier League encounters, although that run was tempered by their 5-1 collapse to Chelsea at home in the FA Cup last week, and having gone within minutes of beating Stoke at the Britannia in their last fixture on the road, will be confident of causing a dispirited Villa side problems.

Defender Jose Fonte is out for six weeks with a knee injury, the same problem that continues to sideline captain Adam Lallana. Elsewhere however, Nigel Adkins should be able to call upon Gaston Ramirez and Nathaniel Clyne but striker Emmanuel Mayuka has joined the Zambia squad for the Africa Cup of Nations.

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