Mid-table Aston Villa host relegation-threatened Fulham at Villa Park on Sunday afternoon as we head into the final stretch of the 2020/21 Premier League season — there’s still a great deal to play for.
Villa have struggled of late, with just one win in their last seven league games seeing them drop into the bottom half of the table. But their form earlier in the campaign serves them well, and if they can put together a good run to finish off the season, they’ll surely find themselves back in the top 10 when the curtain is drawn.
Last time out, the hosts were defeated on their own turf by Tottenham Hotspur, sunk by goals from Carlos Vinicius and Harry Kane. Villa will be hoping to return to winning ways here.
Visitors Fulham, meanwhile, have recently mounted a very credible push for survival — winning three out of five matches in a run between February and March — but two straight losses just before the international break have seen them come crashing back down to earth. The Cottagers still have a fight on their hands if they are to avoid the drop.
In their most recent fixture, Fulham were defeated by Leeds United at Craven Cottage thanks to a masterclass from Patrick Bamford; the striker scored the opener and assisted Raphinha’s winner to put a real dent in the Cottagers’ survival aspirations — but there is still ample time for them to turn things around.
Villa skipper Jack Grealish has returned to full training and is more than likely to start here having spent the last seven weeks sidelined with a shin injury.
Defender Kortney Hause is also fit again, while Wesley is not far from a return but will feature for the Under-23s this weekend.
For Fulham, Bobby Decordova-Reid will be a welcome return — he’s missed their last two games through injury — but captain Tom Cairney remains sidelined with a knee problem.
Aston Villa — Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Luiz, McGinn; Traore, Barkley, Grealish; Watkins.
Fulham — Areola; Tete, Andersen, Adarabioyo, Aina; Decordova-Reid, Lemina, Reed, Lookman; Cavaleiro, Mitrovic.
Aston Villa head coach Dean Smith:
“We’ve pretty much got a fully fit squad, we’re in a really good place at the moment. We’ve got some smiling faces coming back from internationals, which is really good.
“Looking at the last game they played and when we played them earlier in the season, there are only five players who started that game against us. It’s going to be very different.
“I believe they’re a good team and a team that’s in-form. They’ve already made up a great amount of points on the teams above them when it looked they were getting cut adrift. That shows the job that Scott Parker’s done, that they’re in touching distance of three or four other clubs now.”
Fulham manager Scott Parker:
“Staying in the Premier League last year was huge for them, they’ve been given more money to invest and they’ve invested very, very well. They’ve got a very strong team, so I personally feel that the journey they’re on, and where they are, is a very good one.
“It’s a tough place to go, Villa Park, we understand that. We’re going to have to bring something to the game on Sunday, all elements of our game, to get something from it. And hopefully, like we’ve shown in other games, we can do that again.
“Five goals in three games, I’m pleased for [Aleksandar Mitrovic]. He wasn’t fit to play at Wembley in the [playoff] final, he had a short turnaround in pre-season, and it’s been a bit bump. If they’ve got the talent, and they’ve got a certain ethic about them, they come back stronger, and that’s exactly where Mitro is.”
Should Villa win here, it will be their first league double over Fulham since the 2009/10 season.
Fulham have won just one of their 17 league trips to Villa Park, and it came in the most recent top-flight instalment of the fixture in 2014 when Hugo Rodallega scored a late winner.
How to watch
Aston Villa vs Fulham will be broadcast live for Sky Sports customers on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Premier League. Coverage will begin at 16:00 BST and kick-off is set for 16:30 BST.
Alternatively, a highlights package will become available on the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel shortly after the final whistle.
BBC One’s Match of the Day airs at 22:30 BST and will cover all of the action and analysis from this week’s Premier League fixtures.
And remember, there will also be a live text commentary on the match right here at VAVEL UK — make sure to follow along!