When I think of Aston Villa vs Fulham, my memories tend to stray away from past matches at Villa Park and towards that wonderful Wembley performance in 2018 that saw us promoted to the Premier League. However, we go into this one in the Midlands needing a result as much as that day nearly 3 years ago, only this time, to boost our survival bid in the Premier League.
Sunday’s hosts, currently sit 10th in the Premier League table on 41 points, with 12 wins in 28 games. Villa have been a completely different side to the one in their first season back in the Premier League in 2019/20. Their controversial survival last season has not derailed the Midlands side’s bid to re-establish themselves as a consistent Premier League outfit, and their better season could be put down to experience gained, both by the players and the manager and his coaching staff. A lapse in the Hawkeye technology during Villa’s game against Sheffield United saw them gain a crucial point and subsequently kept them in the league, following their draw at West Ham on matchweek 38.
Villa aren’t out of contention for a European place, and with this season being unpredictable in terms of results and form, it would be naive to suggest Dean Smith’s side go into the weekend with nothing to play for.
Fulham meanwhile, need to bounce back from 2 Premier League defeats in a row. The performances against Manchester City and Leeds weren’t what we’ve seen in the last few months, however it can be argued that the Cottagers play better away from home, something we’ve rarely seen as Fulham fans over the years in the top flight. Luckily, Newcastle’s poor form has kept us close with The Whites just 2 points behind the Magpies, but Brighton, now 6 points ahead, are pulling away, making it a two horse race to the end.
The international interlude coming, and a two week break from the league schedule, was something Scott Parkers side needed to regroup and go again ahead of a crucial last 8 games. The break also saw Aleksander Mitrovic score 5 goals in 3 games for Serbia, whilst also becoming the nation’s top international goalscorer. Fans will see the striker’s prolific international excursion as a potential turning point for the striker, who has been lacking in confidence all season. A potent run in front of goal for his country will hopefully see him earn a start on Sunday and fire the Whites to victory.
PREDICTION: ASTON VILLA 1-1 FULHAM
PREFERRED LINE-UP: 4-2-3-1
HEAD TO HEAD
LEAGUE RECORD (OVERALL)
- GAMES PLAYED – 65
- FULHAM WINS – 22
- DRAWS – 21
- VILLA WINS – 22
- GOALS SCORED – 84
- GOALS CONCEDED – 89
LEAGUE RECORD (AWAY)
- GAMES PLAYED – 32
- FULHAM WINS – 5
- DRAWS – 10
- VILLA WINS – 17
- GOALS SCORED – 31
- GOALS CONCEDED – 53
BIGGEST WINS AT VILLA PARK
- ASTON VILLA 5-0 FULHAM (1904/05)
- ASTON VILLA 2-5 FULHAM (1965/66)
- ASTON VILLA 4-1 FULHAM (1951/52)
- ASTON VILLA 0-3 FULHAM (1936/37)
- ASTON VILLA 3-0 FULHAM (1950/51, 2003/04)
LAST 5 GAMES
- FULHAM 0-3 ASTON VILLA
- FULHAM 2-1 ASTON VILLA (FA CUP)
- ASTON VILLA 0-1 FULHAM (PLAYOFF FINAL)
- FULHAM 2-0 ASTON VILLA
- ASTON VILLA 2-1 FULHAM
- ASTON VILLA – LDDLW
- FULHAM – LLWLD
COLLINS JOHN’S VIEW
Villa away, another tough game! But considering there are only 8 games left, it’s a game that we have to believe is winnable as draws just aren’t good enough right now.
Villa haven’t been up to much recently and I watched their game against Spurs before the international break. They weren’t a threat going forward, largely down to missing Jack Grealish who unfortunately for us, is likely to be back on Sunday but that’s the nature of the Premier League, it’s the best league in the world.
Let’s be honest, we were very poor against Leeds and the international break came at a very good time for us. We looked both physically and mentally drained and having a break to recover came at the perfect point with our momentum slowing down. Although some players went away on international duty and might not have had a rest, even the change of scenery and getting out of the building is enough to refresh your brain and we can look upon these 8 games as a mini league between us and Newcastle.
Mitro has had a brilliant week with Serbia and congratulations to him on becoming his country’s leading goalscorer. It could be the boost our team needs if he can bring that form back to England. I hope he starts on Sunday because Konsa and Mings are big, physical centre backs and Mitro will be able to give them a good test.
Let’s keep it tight at the back, get back to keeping clean sheets and nick a goal. We are good enough to stay up and the fight continues on Sunday. Come on Fulham!
PREDICTION: ASTON VILLA 0-1 FULHAM
BATTLE TO WATCH
OLLIE WATKINS VS JOACHIM ANDERSEN
Fulham fans will know Watkins all too well from his time at neighbours Brentford, and will also remember how prolific the striker can be from his time with the Bees. He also had a close run race with Aleksander Mitrovic for the second tier’s golden boot last season, showing that the striker was a threat. His transfer to Villa was deserved, and after Brentford’s play-off final defeat to Fulham, it was inevitable Watkins’ services were going to be competed for. Fulham were one of a number of teams competing for the now England international’s signature, but a £33 million fee plus a link up with his former manager Dean Smith proved the most tempting option for the striker.
Watkins possesses bags of pace, and the clinical edge he holds stood him in good stead for an England call up where he notched a debut international goal. The striker has made 28 Premier League appearances for Aston Villa this season, scoring 10 goals and grabbing 3 assists. His transition from a winger to a centre-forward at his former club proved a masterstroke as Watkins has transitioned into a dangerous and unpredictable number 9, who Andersen will need to make sure he keeps quiet in order for Fulham to stand a chance of a result.
The Danish international got his first goal for the club in the last matchday against Leeds. Andersen has impressed this season with his solid defence and his impressive range of passing. Watkins will have to put pressure on Andersen to try and limit his time on the ball, preventing the centre half from dictating play. The captain has been one of the key factors in Fulham’s turnaround since the reverse fixture, and a win at Villa Park will go a long way towards a survival bid, that would hopefully see the Danish international stay at Craven Cottage.
Both players will be key for either side this Sunday, with Andersen looking to stop Watkins from getting in behind the Fulham defence. The improved organisation of the Cottagers defence since the reverse fixture will give Fulham fans more confidence than the last time we played Dean Smith’s side. Recent form has seen us concede 5 goals in 2 games, but let’s hope the international break has allowed us to regroup, to shore up defensively and hopefully be more clinical in attack. It’s going to be a tough game for Andersen, but I have every faith in him stopping the prolific Watkins on Sunday afternoon.
LAST TIME OUT
FULHAM 0-3 ASTON VILLA (28/09/20)
It was one of the worst Fulham performances this season, where the need for defensive reinforcements was clearer than ever after a sloppy and dreadful showing at Craven Cottage.
Jack Grealish gave Villa the lead after just 4 minutes after a perfectly timed run onto a John McGinn ball over the top of the Fulham defence, and the England international slotted home calmly. The visitors’ second came just 11 minutes later, with Hourihane getting the ball in a crowded penalty area, curling it into the bottom right corner, and making Fulham fans feel that a long evening was coming at Craven Cottage. The Whites’ misery was compounded just 3 minutes into the second half when Tyrone Mings broke the Fulham line from a Villa free kick to seal the victory for the visitors.
It took being 3-0 down at home for the Whites to finally shift into gear, with Bobby Decordova-Reid grabbing a goal from a rebounded Aboubakar Kamara shot, only for the goal to be ruled out by VAR as Mitrovic was adjudged to have fouled Mings in the build up. Joe Bryan hit the bar late on, but it was a day of few chances for the home side, and with 10 goals conceded in our first 3 Premier League games, Fulham fans could’ve been forgiven if they struggled to see where a win would come from.
The aftermath of this game also saw controversy with social media and Tony Khan’s apology tweets, and it really felt like we had hit rock bottom. But looking back now, we were a completely different team to the one we are now, and those defensive signings have proved to be a triumph, so let’s hope for a better result this time round against Aston Villa!
PLAYERS IN COMMON
ASTON VILLA APPEARANCES – 67
GOALS – 4
FULHAM APPEARANCES – 113
GOALS – 17
Jimmy Allen, Darren Bent, Terry Bullivant, Stan Collymore, Steven Davis, Andy Ducat, Ray Houghton, Aaron Hughes, Gábor Király, Zat Knight, Eddie Lowe, Reg Lowe, Ross McCormack, Josh Onomah, Kieran Richardson, Wayne Routledge, Philippe Senderos, Nicky Shorey, Steve Sidwell, Matt Targett, Bobby Templeton.