By Tom Powell
Friday 11 Apr 2008 17:15:25
Browse all Aston Villa FansOnline articles

What a difference a week makes in football. Seven days ago Villa’s season was spiralling into nothingness as Martin O’Neill’s men were struggling to find the net and keep the ball out their own. Last Saturday’s 4-0 thumping of Bolton has brought confidence soaring back into the team and supporters.

There is talk once again of a late surge towards Europe. That surge begins this weekend as Villa travel to already relegated Derby in a bid to try and catch sixth placed Portsmouth and secure Midland’s bragging rights.

Whilst fifth place is not entirely unlikely an Intertoto Cup spot is perhaps a more likely scenario. Villa go into Saturday’s game in pole position in the fight for seventh spot ahead of Blackburn and Manchester City. Derby’s main goal for the rest of the season will be to avoid the lowest points total in Premiership history and regain some pride for their supporters. 

For once Martin O’Neill faces no fresh injury worries ahead of this weekend’s clash but he may face a number of selection issues. Wayne Routledge and Patrik Berger may be in contention following last weeks late cameos, whilst Marlon Harewood’s goal may put him in with a shout of a starting place. It is more than likely that O’Neill will field the same eleven that destroyed Bolton last weekend.

Stiliyan Petrov’s return to form will see him retain his place whilst Gabriel Agbonlahor’s goal that ends his goal drought should see him start again up front. This means Nigel Reo-Coker will play once more in his favoured midfield role. He told SkySports, “I am doing a job for the team. Whether I am at right-back, a holding midfielder or in a more roaming midfield role, I will do whatever is asked of me. It can be frustrating as I cannot always get consistency into my game - I have played a lot of positions.” Craig Gardner is unlikely to be risked as he continues his rehabilitation following the injury he picked up last month.

If it wasn’t already difficult enough for the Derby boss, Paul Jewell faces a number of injury concerns. Mile Sterjovski and Dean Leacock look set to miss out and they have been joined on the treatment table by Robbie Savage and striker Tito Villa. Jewell told the Derby County official website, “Mile has got a sore achilles and out of the four he is least likely to be fit. The other three are probably 60-40 in our favour. I think it will be a late shout on them and we will have to see how they are come Saturday.” Other than that Jewell looks set to name the same team that battled valiantly but came up shout at Goodison Park last Sunday. 

Derby player David Jones has spoken of their need to send the crowds home on Saturday happy, as pay back for their support this year. He told the official website, “Villa have had another good season and they are doing well but, as we showed against United, if we put in a good performance that can really lift the crowd.” Following two good performances against Fulham and Everton after the United defeat Jewell will be looking to carry on against Villa this Saturday and reach sixteen points to beat Sunderland’s fifteen point total in 2005/2006. 

On the other side of the fence Villa’s Nigel Reo-Coker has called for an unbeaten run for the rest of the season. He told the club's official website: “Towards the end of the season four or five wins on the bounce can be the difference between finishing sixth or seventh or in mid-table. Your form over the rest of the season can mean nothing. You finish where you deserve to finish and we really know we need to get back to winning ways - now.” 

This season’s reverse fixture saw Villa pick up a comfortable 2-0 win back in November. After a goalless first half Martin Laursen volleyed Villa ahead before Ashley Young wrapped up the points with a close range effort. 

Fortunately my prediction last weekend was wrong again as the 2-0 loss I predicted was well wide of the mark. Once again therefore I will put no faith in Villa and suggest that Derby’s lack of pressure following their relegation will see them turn in another improved performance this weekend which will see them earn a 1-1 draw. Hopefully I’m wrong again. 

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