Following Aston Villa’s fantastic run of form (W5) that culminated in their disappointing 1-1 draw against Brentford, talk of potential Champions League qualifying had been increasing during the previous week. The Villans’ perseverance cannot be questioned as they came back late in the game to earn a point and extend their unbeaten streak to nine games; they are likely to qualify for European football in some manner with a seventh-place finish being possible.
Since none of the previous four visiting teams have earned a point or even scored a goal here, a return to Villa Park should be encouraging. Villa’s current streak of four consecutive home victories without a response is really a club record in the Premier League (PL), albeit the last time they accomplished the feat in the top division, they lost the next match 6-2 back in 1983.
Fulham has spent the past few rounds inflicting additional agony on relegation-threatened teams Everton and Leeds (W2), a pair of victories that may have revived the Cottagers’ tenuous chances of finishing in Europe. These victories put an end to Fulham’s five-game losing streak, but they’ll face a considerably tougher test of their mettle today against a team they’ve lost to three times in their last four meetings.
Although their overall PL record against such teams this season is dismal (W1, L8), Fulham may take heart from the fact that the only top six team they have defeated this season is Villa in the head to head. In any event, one must be careful not to dismiss the visitors because only two teams have a higher win percentage as PL road underdogs than their 36% (W5, D2, L7).
Ollie Watkins scored the game’s final goal in the previous season’s matchup, and with one more goal, he may surpass his previous best season in the Premier League scoring with a run of five goals in his past five games. In the last two rounds, Harry Wilson has scored his first two Premier League goals of the year, and he has never lost when scoring for Fulham (W10, D2).
Emiliano Martinez, the starting goalkeeper for Villa against Brentford, was forced to be replaced at halftime due to a stomach bug that had been plaguing him prior to the game. Robin Olsen counted his lucky starts when Kevin Schade missed an easy goal after the Swede spilled the ball into his path.
Martinez’s illness is not expected to prevent him from playing on Tuesday, according to Villa, but the same cannot be said for Philippe Coutinho (thigh), Leon Bailey (thigh), Boubacar Kamara (ankle), or Matty Cash (ankle).
Watkins hopes to bring his Premier League goal total to 15 as Emery deploys the same starting XI, though Bertrand Traore and Jhon Duran could provide something a little different off the bench.
The return of Daniel James, who missed the weekend match against his parent club Leeds will help Fulham, but Mitrovic must serve the fifth of his extended eight matches suspension.
Layvin Kurzawa, the left back, is still dealing with knee issues and could not be ready to play until the beginning of next month, but aside from him, Silva should have almost the same lineup as last weekend, and Neeskens Kebano was able to make his much anticipated comeback from a persistent Achilles injury on Saturday.
Bobby Decordova Reid might not make the starting lineup if Silva changes his attacking strategy in response to James’s comeback because Wilson and Willian are still showing off their skills out wide.
Aston Villa possible starting lineup
Martinez, Young, Konsa, Mings, Moreno, McGinn, Dendoncker, Luiz, Ramsey, Buendia and Watkins.
Fulham possible starting lineup
Leno, Tete, Adarabioyo, Ream, Robinson, Palhinha, Reed, Wilson, Pereira, Willian and James.
We predict: Aston Villa 2-1 Fulham
In Mitrovic’s absence, Silva may have finally discovered the formula for scoring, but for the Cottagers, whose victory over Leeds was far from convincing, closing down shop is still a problem.
We have confidence in the hosts to immediately back to winning ways, but Silva’s team will not make it easy for them. Emery’s team has proven to be a difficult nut to crack at Villa Park and is always capable of posing a threat in the final third.