Aston Villa manager Remi Garde and his Norwich City counterpart Alex Neil have issued tough messages to their relegation-threatened players ahead of Saturday’s meeting between two of the Premier League’s struggling sides.
Villa lost 2-0 at West Ham on Tuesday to remain stranded at the foot of the table, six points behind 19th-placed Sunderland and 10 adrift of Norwich, who are two points outside the drop zone in the precarious position of 17th.
The Canaries were beaten 3-0 at home by Tottenham in midweek and have lost their last five matches in all competitions, conceding 17 goals and scoring just five in reply during that stretch.
It is the Midlands club who are in deeper trouble though, with a brief unbeaten run of one win and two draws in the league last month having done little to improve their desperate situation before yet another loss last time out at Upton Park.
“Norwich is a tremendously important game,” Garde said.
“It’s a big match. It will be the time for us to win.
“We have no choice now.”
Neil, perhaps still reeling from seeing his team throw away an injury-time equaliser to lose 5-4 at home to Liverpool late last month, offered a similarly stark piece of advice to the Norwich squad, who were no match for title-challengers Spurs at Carrow Road on Tuesday.
“There is no sugar-coating it, we need to start winning games,” he said.
“If we are going to have any ambitions of competing and staying in this league we are going to have to play better. It is simple as that.”
If the Premier League season to date is any indication, the uncompromising words of both managers are no guarantee of an improved showing from either squad come kick-off at Villa Park, where the visitors will have close to a clean bill of health.
The same cannot be said of the home side. Ashley Westwood (calf), Libor Kozak (knock), Alan Hutton, Carlos Sanchez and Rudy Gestede (all hamstring) missed Villa’s loss at West Ham, with Garde unsure if any of the absentees will return at the weekend.
“Hopefully we could have one or two back in the team,” he said.
“But I am not sure yet.”
Gary O’Neil is available again for Norwich after serving a three-match ban following his sending off away to Stoke City on January 13.
Alexander Tettey is suspended after receiving his 10th booking of the season against Spurs, while Graham Dorrans and Robbie Brady missed that match through illness, but could return for this one.
Norwich ran out 2-0 winners when the teams met in December’s reverse fixture.
Key Opta stats:
– Aston Villa are unbeaten in their last six competitive home games against Norwich City (W3 D3) and defeated them 4-1 at Villa Park in their last meeting there.
– Norwich have won just one of their last 11 Premier League away games (W1 D2 L8).
– Villa have won just one of their last 12 Premier League games at Villa Park (W1 D4 L7), scoring just eight goals in that run.
– Villa have claimed just seven points at home this season, at least five fewer than any other side in the division.
– Norwich have allowed more shots on target against them in 2016 than any other team (29).
– Villa have 13 points after 24 Premier League games this season – each of the four teams to have previously won 14 points or fewer at this stage have ended the season in last place.
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