Aston Villa could finally be put out of their misery and see relegation confirmed on Saturday against a Bournemouth side who could all but secure their own Premier League status with a positive result at Villa Park.
Villa’s first ever relegation from the Premier League will be sealed if Norwich better their result; even if they match the Canaries’ result their fate will be all but confirmed as Villa will sit 15 points behind Norwich with five games to play and a goal difference 19 worse than their rivals.
Eric Black is in temporary charge for the hosts, who go in search of just their third home win all season; they have scored just 11 times in 16 matches in front of their own fans, and to make matters worse the club were this week forced to deny that they had spent £2 million just to remove the word ‘prepared’ from the club badge.
Villa fans must have thought it would all turn out so differently as they left Bournemouth in August revelling in an opening-day victory in the reverse fixture; that 1-0 win remains their only away success this season and one of just three victories overall.
There was a sense that Bournemouth had downed tools last weekend as they slumped to a 4-0 defeat at home to Manchester City; a result that could have been a lot worse given that the hosts were 3-0 down inside 18 minutes.
Realistically, the Cherries’ total of 38 points should be enough to keep them in the top flight, but Eddie Howe would undoubtedly like one more win to make sure; Villa Park is the ideal venue in which to secure those desired three points.
The south coast outfit have almost identical records at the Vitality Stadium and on the road, having won five, drawn four and lost seven both home and away; a first ever win at Villa Park would improve an already impressive away record, as well as ensuring that these two teams will be in different divisions next season.
The hosts will be without Alan Hutton through suspension after he was sent off in the 4-0 defeat to Chelsea last weekend, while Ciaran Clark is still a doubt with a calf problem.
However, Gabby Agbonlahor is available again after being suspended by the club for the clash against the Blues.
Howe will have to do without striker Benik Afobe, who could be out for a month with a hamstring strain, Adam Smith (hernia) and Harry Arter (achilles) also look set to miss out.
League Position: Aston Villa – 20th (16 pts); Bournemouth – 13th (38 pts)
Last Meeting: Bournemouth 0-1 Aston Villa (August 8, 2015)
Form: Aston Villa – LLLLLL; Bournemouth – DWWWLL
Key Men: Aston Villa – Jordan Ayew; Bournemouth – Max Gradel
Shoot Says: Aston Villa 0-2 Bournemouth