Francesco Guidolin has labelled the visit of the Premier League’s bottom side Aston Villa as Swansea City’s most important fixture this term.
Guidolin will return to the dugout after missing Swansea’s previous three matches through illness and hopes to see his team return to winning ways.
Swansea were unable to make it three wins from as many matches as a pair of equalisers could not prevent a 3-2 loss at AFC Bournemouth last weekend.
That setback came on the back of wins against Arsenal and Norwich City, and Guidolin hopes a further three-point haul against a beleaguered Villa can make the Swans’ own fears of relegation increasingly remote.
“We have an important game on Saturday, and it the most important game of the season for us,” said Guidolin, whose team could move 11 points clear of the drop zone if they win and Norwich lose at West Brom.
“We have to play well and we hope to get a good result to take into the last part of the season. But we have to just focus on this game because it won’t be easy.
“I know their situation, and I know how difficult matches like this can be. But I hope to see my team play well, with concentration and intensity.”
Villa’s dire situation on the field – their latest losing streak stands at five matches – has been reflected by a tumultuous few days behind the scenes.
Sporting director Hendrik Almstadt leaving the club this was followed by CEO Tom Fox stepping down with immediate effect.
Former manager Brian Little came on board hours later to undertake an advisory role and, amid this ongoing upheaval, Garde was linked with a return to former club Lyon that he was quick to dismiss.
“I’m 100 per cent focused on Aston Villa. The situation is difficult enough not to comment on speculation,” he told BBC WM 95.6.
“I’m not working and living only for my reputation – I’m not living for the past, I’m living for the future.”
Villa are set to welcome back Carlos Sanchez from a hamstring injury but Jack Grealish (ankle) Adama Traore (foot) will have to wait until after the international break to return and forward duo Gabriel Agbonlahor (hip/thigh) and Libor Kozak (ankle) remain sidelined.
Modou Barrow scored his first goal for Swansea at the Vitality Stadium last time out and is expected to overcome a hamstring niggle to feature once more, although Andre Ayew is likely to miss out on facing Villa and his brother Jordan due to an ankle injury.
Key Opta stats:
– Swansea City are unbeaten in their last six Barclays Premier League games against Aston Villa (W4 D2), winning the last four in a row.
– Both Jordan Ayew and Andre Ayew netted in this fixture back in October, becoming the first brothers to score for opposing sides in the same match in Premier League history.
– The Swans have won just three of their last 13 Premier League matches at Liberty Stadium (W3 D5 L5).
– Aston Villa haven’t won away from home in the Premier League when the opposition has scored since beating Southampton 3-2 in December 2013.
– Villa have already equalled their worst tally of Premier League defeats in a single season (20 – set in 2015/16, 2014/15 and 2013/14).
– Sergio Aguero (9) and Harry Kane (8) are the only players to have scored more Premier League goals in 2016 than Gylfi Sigurdsson (7).
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