Villa are entering the last-chance saloon in their unlikely survival bid, and a win this weekend over the side occupying the final safe spot in the Premier League is essential if they are to launch a ‘great escape’.
Remi Garde’s future has become a talking point after the Frenchman’s frustrations over the lack of transfer activity for the Midlands club, and the limp 2-0 defeat at West Ham on Tuesday will have done little to convince Garde that his side have the desire to turn their dire situation around.
The hosts are ten points adrift of safety, a gap which will close to seven with a win this weekend, but their goal difference of -22 – the worst in the Premier League – represents another obstacle to overcome.
No team has scored fewer goals than Villa’s 18 this season, and they also need to improve on a home record that has been dismal for several years now; they have won a pitiful 18 out of their last 81 home games in front of their own fans, growing numbers of whom are now staying away.
Norwich travel to Villa Park on a poor run of their own having lost four on the spin, a run which continued with Tuesday’s 3-0 reverse at home to Tottenham.
The Canaries have also conceded three or more goals in each of those four defeats; only Sunderland in 2005 have conceded three goals in five Premier League games in a row.
Alex Neil’s side have won just once on their travels all season, but if there is one place in which that run is likely to end then it is Villa Park. The midweek results have seen the bottom of the table look as if it may be three from four to go down; Norwich need to start picking up points to drag those above them back into the scrap.
Jordan Ayew begins a three-match suspension for Villa after his petulant sending off at Upton Park, and fellow attacker Libor Kozak is out for a month with an ankle injury. Ashley Westwood could return to the engine room, but Garde will be without Alan Hutton, Rudy Gestede and Carlos Sanchez.
For the visitors, Alex Tettey is suspended after picking up his tenth booking of the season against Spurs, but his midfield partner Gary O’Neil returns from a ban of his own. Robbie Brady and Graham Dorrans have both recovered from illness and are set to feature.
League Positions: Norwich – 17th (23 pts); Aston Villa – 20th (13 pts)
Previous Meeting: Norwich 2-0 Aston Villa – December 28, 2015
League Form: Aston Villa – LLWDDL; Norwich – WWLLLL
Key Players: Aston Villa – Jordan Veretout; Norwich – Robbie Brady
Shoot Says: Aston Villa 1-1 Norwich