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Aston Villa are arguably the division’s most improved team this season, but they’ve hit a rough patch having lost four of five outings in all competitions.
However, they remain in the top half of the table and dark horses for a European finish, sitting ahead of their hosts here on goal difference with a game in hand, and it’s certainly not all doom and gloom.
We wouldn’t read too much into Villa’s FA Cup defeat to Liverpool, where a coronavirus outbreak forced Dean Smith to field the Under 23’s, while two of their three recent league defeats were inflicted on the road by the Manchester duo.
Their last two outings have seen them ease to a comfortable 2-0 win over Newcastle, before falling 3-2 to an improving Burnley outfit, so their dip in form doesn’t hold the appearance of any imminent collapse.
Southampton Draw No Bet
Southampton represent another strong challenge though as Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side are going strong themselves.
The Saints have lost just four times in 19 appearances across all competitions since late September, as only quality outfits Man Utd, Man City, Leicester and Arsenal have got the better of them.
Southampton have already managed home wins over Liverpool in the league, as well as Shrewsbury and Arsenal in the FA Cup in 2021 so far.
Each of those were accompanied by clean sheets, with the Saints having now shut their opponents out in five of seven matches this side of Christmas. These were low-scoring affairs with six of seven featuring fewer than three goals, while over half saw a maximum of just one strike.
That defensive record will be tested here given Villa have added more strings to their bow in attack this year.
The visitors have scored at least once in 12 of 14 appearances since November, and with Ollie Watkins back amongst the goals we’d be uncomfortable backing another clean sheet for the Saints.
That’s especially the case with Hasenhuttl missing some players at the back here. Jannik Vestergaard is a big loss, with the big Dane also handy in the opposition box at set pieces, while the hosts have also lost full-back Kyle Walker-Peters.
Meanwhile, defensive midfielder Oriol Romeu has only managed one game since Christmas, though the absences of Romeu and Vestergaard hasn’t thwarted the Saints’ form.
Southampton can also take encouragement from the recent head-to-heads having won all three since Villa returned to the top flight.
They were victorious by two-goal margins in both encounters last term, while they edged the reverse fixture this season 4-3 back in November.
Given only top sides have been able to down the Saints over a sustained period of time, combined with Villa’s dip in form, the hosts look a strong prospect draw no bet despite their absentees at the back.