Aston Villa will hope that their wait for a first win in 17 games in all competitions can come to an end on Tuesday evening as they come up against away specialists Crystal Palace, who have not scored in their last three league outings.
Clearly intent on ending the dismal run and adding a little confidence to the squad, manager Remi Garde named a strong starting XI for Villa’s FA Cup third round tie at Wycombe Wanderers, but they were unable to get the job done despite taking a first half lead. They managed the game poorly and showed an increasing lack of quality in possession as it wore on, much to the ire of a vocal travelling support which aimed notable displeasure towards Garde after he brought off playmaker Carles Gil.
The Spaniard scored a superlative goal in his side’s last Premier League match at Sunderland, but defeat coupled with several moments of comical defending only served the reaffirm why the Villans appear to be relegation certainties. Now some seven points adrift at the bottom and 11 off safety, it will be interesting to see just how much fight the team shows from now on, and here they will need plenty if they are to stand any chance of achieving a positive result.
Injuries to a couple of key players hampered Crystal Palace’s attacking threat over the festive period, and although they made the better start against Chelsea they faded away badly after falling behind and ended up on the end of a comprehensive defeat. Then in the FA Cup at Southampton they looked much more like the team which is challenging for a European place this season with a strong display and a win which continues their superb record on the road under boss Alan Pardew.
Indeed, that is one of the reasons why the Londoners will be the strong favourites to come away with maximum points here, and in order to do so they will look upon Jason Puncheon and Yohan Cabaye to pull the strings while Wilfried Zaha will relish the chance of taking on Villa left-back Kieran Richardson, a player who appears to be past his best. Victory could lift Palace back up to fifth place ahead of the games that take place on Wednesday.
Gabriel Agbonlahor is doubtful for Aston Villa, but they should have captain Micah Richards available despite coming off at Wycombe due to a foot problem.
Cabaye will hope to be fit for Palace, who are still without Yannick Bolasie. On the bright side, Connor Wickham is set to make his return from injury.