Aston Villa will move on to 38 points and surely to within touching distance of Premier League safety if they are able to beat West Ham United.
Recent form certainly suggests that they can, belying the fact they have the division’s worst home record by producing a virtuoso performance to see the challenge of in-form Everton last time out, with Christian Benteke again the man to make the key contribution, and he is looking unstoppable once again.
But behind him, Tom Cleverley seems to be totally rejuvenated, and alongside Fabian Delph – who according to manager Tim Sherwood is currently the Premier League’s best midfielder – he will ensure Villa are tenacious throughout against a physical side in West Ham. Sherwood just seems to be bringing the best out of so many in his squad.
It was a relief for West Ham to end a poor sequence with a victory over Burnley which saw them return to the top half, but the winning margin should have been more as they passed up a number of opportunities against 10 men. The result meant that they have now gained their most points in a season since promotion in 2012.
If it is to be Sam Allardyce’s final season in charge, that is something he can look back on fondly, and he has the club in great shape with a strong squad. The pace of Enner Valencia, who has struggled for goals recently, will provide their best chance in this one, but there is no question over which side needs the win more.
The hosts have no new injury problems and are likely to be unchanged, but are still without defenders Nathan Baker and Ciaran Clark.
West Ham are still unable to call on strikers Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho, as well as defenders Guy Demel, Winston Reid and James Tomkins.
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