Remi Garde has urged Aston Villa to stick together as they begin a 15-game bid to salvage their Premier League status with a trip to West Ham.
Villa were left to focus solely on their plight at the foot of the table on Saturday after Manchester City inflicted a chastening 4-0 defeat to end their participation in the FA Cup.
It was the result of an error-strewn display, where Villa were behind in the fourth minute and midfielder Idrissa Gueye was culpable for errors in the build-up to City’s third and fourth goals.
But manager Garde does not believe it is time to play the blame game and urged a response from his players, who are unbeaten in their previous three Premier League matches and drew 1-1 with the same opponents on Boxing Day.
“I don’t want to blame any one of my players particularly,” the former Arsenal midfielder told a news conference.
“We need to stick together for the last 15 games. It’s not the time to say ‘it’s your fault or it’s my fault’.
“It will be a Premier League game again. We will keep focus on this huge target we have.
“It will be a different match for sure. Hopefully we won’t start badly like [against City].”
Garde found himself light in terms of strikers at the weekend, handing club stalwart Gabriel Agbonlahor the second appearance of his tenure as Libor Kozak and Rudy Gestede recovered from injuries on the sidelines.
“Hopefully one of the two will be fit for the Tuesday game,” Garde added.
“Rudy injured his hamstring against West Brom and Libor received a bad kick on his ankle in this game.”
Garde’s opposite number Slaven Bilic has his own problems in attack, with Andy Carroll nursing a hamstring complaint and Diafra Sakho and Manuel Lanzini battling muscular strains.
James Tomkins will miss the match having received stitches in a facial injury sustained during Saturday’s 0-0 FA Cup draw at Liverpool, although Bilic is hopeful Cheikhou Kouyate can overcome a knock then ended his afternoon early at Anfield.
West Ham are also set to make a late call on their starting goalkeeper after Darren Randolph deputised in the cup tie for Adrian, who travelled to Seville for the birth of his first child.
In behaviour that might usually be associated with an expectant father, Republic of Ireland international Randolph will be waiting by his phone for the latest news.
“Adrian still travelled up with us [to Liverpool] but he had to leave first thing on Saturday,” he told West Ham’s official website. “I told him to text me when something happens.
“The first I knew about him leaving was at 5am in the morning when he sent me a text message saying he was on his way to the airport.
“I told him to let me know if there are developments. I will keep in touch with him to see how he is going.”
Key Opta stats:
– There have been just five goals scored over the previous five Premier League meetings between West Ham and Aston Villa.
– United’s former Everton and Hull City striker Nikica Jelavic has scored in three of his five Premier League appearances against Villa, including each of the last two.
– Dimitri Payet has created 57 chances for West Ham this season; Aaron Cresswell is next on the list with 26.
– West Brom went on to avoid relegation in 2004-05 when they had the same lowly tally of 13 points from 23 matches as Villa do now.
– Enner Valencia’s four goals in his last three Premier League matches is equal to the Ecuador international’s return from his previous 39 outings.
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