Best odds: 13/5
Bournemouth are set to welcome Aston Villa to the Vitality Stadium on Saturday for what should be a very exciting game, and it could turn out very important as well, as both teams seek to secure Premier League survival this season. The match will be a part of the 25th round of the season in the English top flight.
The Cherries have had a disappointing campaign so far, there’s no other way of putting it. The work manager Eddie Howe has done at the club in the last decade can only be described as magnificent, and ever since their promotion to the top tier in 2015, they’ve mostly been a worthy opponent for any team. But it’s quite different this time around, and they seem set for a a tough battle against relegation. There have even been calls for the club to sack Howe, but that would indeed be a drastic measure, and very harsh towards the man who has done so much for them, even if they should fail in that battle.
Bournemouth sit in 18th place at the moment, which means they top the relegation zone, with 23 points to their name. West Ham United directly above and Watford directly below are on the same tally, and while Norwich City appear very likely to go down, it will be a fierce scramble between these clubs, and several others too, to keep their heads above the surface come May.
At the moment of the writing of this piece, the future of forward Joshua King is extremely uncertain. Earlier this morning (Friday), the club reportedly rejected an offer from Manchester United for his services, but there are still claims in the press that the matter isn’t over yet. If a deal is agreed, the 28-year-old certainly won’t be playing in this game, but Bournemouth seem extremely keen to keep him as they feel they will need his goals in the second half of the season to help them in their plight. But even so, King is fighting his way back from a thigh injury at the moment and is unlikely to feature against Villa anyway.
Wingers Junior Stanislas (calf) and Arnaut Groeneveld (ankle) , defenders Jack Stacey, Lloyd Kelly (both thigh), Chris Mepham and Charlie Daniels (both knee), as well as midfielders Jefferson Lerma (groin) and David Brooks (ankle) are all out. Midfielder Philip Billing and defender Diego Rico are having a late fitness test to determine if they are ready to play.
Having only secured promotion from the Championship last summer by winning the play-offs, Aston Villa started their campaign in the top flight reasonably well. However, they gradually lost their footing and now they find themselves in 15th place, with just two points more in the bag than Bournemouth. As is the case for the Cherries, they face a difficult fight for survival.
On the other hand, they’ve achieved great success in reaching the final of the Carabao Cup. They were lucky, it has to be said, as the Liverpool team they faced in the competition mid-December was practically an U-23 side with the Champions League holders on their way to winning the Club World Cup in Qatar. Nonetheless, Villa also beat a great Leicester City side over two legs to get to this final, and they are sure to give it their best against the trophy holders, Manchester City.
Manager Dean Smith has four names on his injury list, but all four are out with serious problems and have a long way to go before they are ready to play again. Goalkeeper Tom Heaton and striker Wesley are recovering from ACL tears, while goalkeeper Jed Steer and midfielder John McGinn, Villa’s arguably best player this season, suffered a calf and an ankle injury, respectively.
Expect this one to be a proper fight. Both teams need the points desperately, and both teams appear to have more quality in their ranks than their respective table placements suggest. A share of the spoils feels the likeliest outcome.
Best odds: 13/5
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