By Tom Powell
Friday 02 May 2008 14:20:00
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With four minutes to go last Sunday, Villa fans had their passports back in the draws as Villa looked set to lose out to Everton in the battle for the final UEFA Cup position. Step up John Carew, to head Villa back into the race and make this Saturday’s game a crucial one as Villa have the chance to leap frog their rivals into fifth.

Wigan are the visitors as they look set to take their position in the Premier League for another season but will be looking to make completely sure this Saturday.

Last Sunday’s 2-2 draw is the latest in a string of strong Villa performances that has seen them reach the position they are in. With a seemingly easier run in some are even suggesting Martin O’Neill’s men are favourites to get fifth as Everton face a diificult trip to the Emirates before a home match against in form Newcastle at the same time as Villa take on West Ham at Upton Park.

Villa’s biggest injury scare is that of departing Swede Olof Mellberg. The stand in right-back was reportedly ill during the game at Goodison Park and is still feeling the effects. Craig Gardner is on hand to fill in this Saturday as he has done for much of the season but I’m willing to put money on nothing standing in Mellberg’s way for his last match at Villa Park. Mellberg is Villa’s only injury worry as O’Neill looks set to send out the same eleven that battled so valiantly in Liverpool. The midfield diamond that bossed the first half last weekend looks set to continue whilst the goalscoring form of John Carew and Gabriel Agbonlahor will see them keep Marlon Harewood out the side.

In the Wigan camp they have concerns over star striker Emile Heskey who picked up an ankle injury in last weekends home draw with Reading but appears to be winning his battle to be in Saturday’s starting eleven. January signing Marlon King is on hand to replace Heskey and partner Marcus Bent in attack. Club captain Mario Melchiot will also miss out this Saturday through a groin injury along with long term injury victim Erik Edman who is sidelined until June.

In the build up to this game Wigan manager Steve Bruce has been speaking of the tough task his side have ahead of them. He told, “They're an excellent team and if they get to fifth, it will be a remarkable achievement because for a couple of years there they were languishing at the wrong end of the table. I've got the biggest respect for Martin and what he's done. He's come in and taken his time to assess his squad, and revamped it in terms of players going out.”

Villa fans eyes will be on Olof Mellberg this Saturday as he makes his final Villa bow in front of his home crowd. He told, “The fans have always been fantastic towards me and I will always be grateful for the support they have shown towards me. I'll always remember that reception I got after the derby win. That game with Blues has always meant a lot to me and I know what it means to the supporters. Hopefully I can finish at home with a win against Wigan and it would be important for Villa if they can overtake Everton and achieve European football.”

Last seasons fixture was a frustrating one for Villa as they were help to a 1-1 draw against Wigan’s ten men. Gabriel Agbonlahor and Emile Heskey were on the scoresheet. This seasons reverse fixture saw Villa come from behind to pick up a 2-1 win. Curtis Davies cancelled out Titus Bramble’s goal before Gabriel Agbonlahor headed Villa to victory.

Another wrong prediction from me last week as the Everton win a predicted finished in an extremely welcome Everton draw. If it isn’t fixed to break it, so I’ll keep predicting losses until they lose. This Saturday however I have a little more faith in my side to suggests they’ll lose to struggling Wigan. A 1-1 draw’s is my prediction after a game similar to last season where Wigan frustrate Villa for large parts of the game, I’m ready to be proved wrong again though.

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