Aston Villa – Manchester United (Premier League)
This weekend never mind about fourth against first, the game that you really don’t want miss is Villa versus United. There will be a lot at stake at Villa Park on Sunday and Manchester has the most to lose. The defending Champions are at mid-table and that is driving the Red Devils fans mad. Villa haven’t beat United at home since 1995 but if ever was a season to try to break that record is now.
Aston Villa are 11th with 19 points, 3 adrift from their Sunday opposition and what they have showed so far is some degree of inconsistency that ultimately render them unpredictable. A week ago they were convincingly beaten 2-0 at Craven Cottage by a side that is at the bottom of the table. The week before they defeat the sensation team of the League, Southampton at St. Mary’s for a 5 match unbeaten stretch. Their home form has been feeble (2-1-4) and they are more suited for the counter-attack. Which, in this case, may work in their advantage. Weimann, Agbonlahor and Benteke are the type of players capable of inflicting serious damage, if they are in a good day. Maybe the Villains can recall the plan they’ve used to beat City 3-2 early this season.
Paul Lambert has a long injury list to worry about. Ron Vlaar is a heavy casualty. Kozak, Luna, Bennett and N’Zogbia remain unavailable. Fabian Delph is suspended because of the fifth yellow card.
Probable line-up: Guzan – Herd, Clark, Baker – Lowton, Bacuna, Westwood, Ahmadi, Luna – Agbonlahor, Benteke.
David Moyes is in a bit of a pickle. Notching back-to-back home losses for the first time in over a decade will do that for you. They are 13 points behind Arsenal and the last League game they’ve won was more than a month ago, precisely against the leaders at Old Trafford (1-0). Surprisingly enough the Champions League has been a welcome distraction to this disastrous home run. They’ve finished first in Group A, 14 points and not a single defeat. Leverkusen came second. Tuesday night, however, the 1-0 result disguised the mediocre performance. Phil Jones scored the winner over Shakhtar Donetsk but the team exhibited the same flaws that have them struggle in the Premier League. Ashley young was poor, Nani is not fit to wear United’s shirt and Cleverly looks a tad bellow Manchester‘s standards. The one truly positive thing that come out of that tie was Phil Jones presence and importance in the pitch. He may well be the leading voice that Manchester United so desperately craves for in the field. I have no doubt Moyes has what it takes to be manager at Old Trafford, filling Fergusson’s shoes is another matter entirely. Most of the arguments the disgruntled bunch is throwing at him did not start overnight. United’s rooster was ageing fast and nobody found the proper replacements. The second coming of Paul Scholes was living proof. Sir Alex squeezed his players for all they had through fear, some say. But even so United has not been an exciting dominant team for some time. Wayne Rooney is an excellent player but he was never a leader. Other than Van Persie all of last Fergusson’s purchases were bargains. In the sense they were cheap. I’m not sure more time, and the January market, can save David Moyes. The Manchester United organization has to change and the holly ghost of Sir Alex is not helping. The next December fixtures – Villa, West Ham, Hull and Norwich – are perfect to gain momentum and buy some time though.
Evra, Smalling and Vidic all have knocks but should be ready to play. Fellaini is still in doubt. Carrick and Fletcher are long-term absentees. Van Persie will be sidelined for a month due to thigh injury.
Probable line-up: De Gea – Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Buttner – Cleverly, Jones – Valência, Rooney, Young – Welbeck.
When the season started who could foreseen that come December this Aston Villa against Manchester United would be such a decisive match? Three points separate the two sides before this mid-table battle. If Manchester is victorious this could be the the first step for climbing back to their more natural top positions. But a 3-0 win would make the Villains jump in front of the defending Champions. How’s that for motivation?