Aston Villa vying for momentuous victory over stuttering Southampton
Aston Villa are aiming to secure their Premier League survival when they make the trip to the south coast to face a stuttering Southampton side, with Villans boss Tim Sherwood hoping to soon switch his focus to their FA Cup final clash against holders Arsenal.
The West Midlands outfit looked to be heading for a daunting drop to the second tier under former boss Paul Lambert, but Sherwood’s arrival at Villa Park has sparked an incredible overturn in form and fortunes, with a win at St Mary’s Stadium set to secure their top-flight status.
Sherwood’s men are 3/1 with Coral to triumph and earn a third consecutive Premier League victory, having toppled West Ham United last out and narrowly edged past Roberto Martinez’s Everton before that.
The former Spurs coach is confident his side can claim a win on the road over Ronald Koeman’s Saints, who have stunningly endured a domestic decline, having now gone four games without a league triumph.
“It would be ideal (to be mathematically safe) because we then get a two-week preparation for the cup final,” stated Sherwood.
“We’ve got players who are going through a real pain barrier out there. There are some who are not fit but willing to put their body on the line for the cause.
“In an ideal world we want them to be fit enough to play but they are putting it in for us which is pleasing.”
A rejuvenated Christian Benteke, along with Fabian Delph, have played every top-flight game since Sherwood took charge, while Manchester United loanee Tom Cleverley only missed the opener against Stoke City, proving his squad need time to rest before facing Arsenal.
The confident coach has recently hinted at utilising his squad in the run-in, with embedding youth into the side a potential option.
Meanwhile, the Saints will hope to overturn their torrid run of form and spoil Villa’s plans of mathematically securing their status in the top tier. A victory for Koeman’s men would revive hopes of finishing in a Europa League spot for next season, and they are 29/10 to win and both teams to score.
Villa attacker Jack Grealish has come under the spotlight over his international future, with England and the Republic of Ireland hoping to land his services, and he is 4/1 to strike anytime. Benteke will again be Sherwood’s key threat and the Belgium international is 10/1 to bag a brace or more.
At the other end, Jay Rodriguez is 2/1 to make a goalscoring return to action, after resuming training following a horrific knee ligament injury. The forward struck against Villa last season and has just recently signed a new deal keeping him on the south coast until 2019.