Grant Holt

Watch Live: Aston Villa vs. Southampton (Lineups and Discuss)

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After losing their last four in a row, Aston Villa are now exactly where they most didn’t want to be: back in the relegation battle. Will they manage a result against a Southampton side arriving at Villa Park with nothing to play for? (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET online via Live Extra).

The Saints have lost their last two, but that matters little. They’re safe, in eighth with 48 points, but are twelve points back of the last Europa League spot. At this point, it’s simply time to experiment with next season in mind – but with Mauricio Pochettino possibly on his way out, is there even much point?

Villa must look to take advantage of Southampton’s possible complacency. After notching exactly zero points in the last month, the hosts are down in fourteenth, just four points above the relegation zone. Now, fans are making their displeasure with Paul Lambert known, and the manager knows his side must put on a convincing home display if he doesn’t want to be shown the door come the end of the season.

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After using a 5-3-2 / 3-5-2 in the loss to Crystal Palace last weekend, Paul Lambert moves to what looks to be a 4-4-2 for this match. Grant Holt, who looked rather disappointing up top last time, gives way for Andi Weimann to pair with Gabby Agbonlahor, while Marc Albrighton comes in to give some pace out wide.

The visitors make four changes to the side that lost to Cardiff last time out. Artur Boruc, Nathaniel Clyne, James Ward-Prowse and Victor Wanyama all get the nod – with Boruc’s return possibly the most significant.

LINEUPS

Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna, Vlaar, Baker, Bertrand, Albrighton, Westwood, Delph, El Ahmadi, Agbonlahor, Weimann

Subs: Steer, Sylla, Tonev, Lowton, Clark, Holt, Robinson

Southampton: Boruc, Clyne, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw, Ward-Prowse, Schneiderlin, Steven Davis, Wanyama, Lallana, Lambert

Subs: Cork, Do Prado, Chambers, Gazzaniga, Hooiveld, Reed, Gallagher

Premier League Roundup: Chelsea and Man City keep pressure on at the top

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On Saturday we witnessed a monumental day in the Premier League, as teams at the top bagged big wins, and sides at the bottom scrapping for their lives also secured much-needed victories.

Chelsea and Manchester City both saw off spirited Stoke and Southampton sides respectively, as they pile the pressure on Liverpool who play on Sunday. At the bottom, Fulham sealed a superb win over Aston Villa as Felix Magath’s men are now just five points from safety and have given themselves a fighting chance of staying up.

(MORE: Latest Premier League standings)

Crystal Palace hammered Cardiff 3-0 away from home, as the Bluebirds look to be doomed, while Hull beat Swansea and West Brom beat Norwich to ease both of their relegation worries.

If you missed any of the action, here are recaps, analysis and highlights of all the action. Enjoy!

Aston Villa 1-2 Fulham

The Cottagers bagged a crucial win thanks to Kieran Richardson’s belter and a strike from Hugo Rodallega, which cancelled out Grant Holt’s equalizer. Villa are now looking nervously over their shoulder, as Fulham are sparking an unlikely survival bid. They can’t do it… can they? What a great escape this would be by the West Londoners, who thoroughly deserved three points from this match.

Cardiff 0-3 Crystal Palace

Ole Gunnar Solksjaer has all but given up, as the Bluebirds “need a miracle” to stay up this season. Palace were simply superb away from home, as a double from Jason Puncheon was added to by Cardiff product Joe Ledley who failed to celebrate his goal out of respect for his hometown club. The Eagles are now soaring away from the bottom three, while Cardiff are second from bottom with five games to go.

Chelsea 3-0 Stoke City

Jose Mourinho’s side bounced back from two-straight defeats to hammer Stoke at Stamford Bridge. Mohamed Salah’s first half goal was added to by Frank Lampard and the hugely impressive Willian in the second half. Stoke were outclassed after they went behind in the 30th minute, and Chelsea never looked back as they prepare to face Paris Saint-Germain in style.

Hull City 1-0 Swansea City

The Tigers are almost safe after a crucial three points at the KC Stadium. Hull needed this win, big time, and it came courtesy of George Boyd’s header just before half time. Swansea looked nervous and snatched at several chances in the second half as they aimed to equalize, now Garry Monk’s men are just six-points above the bottom three and will endure a nervous end to the season.

Manchester City 4-1 Southampton

Don’t be fooled by the scoreline, City were second best for most of the opening half but somehow led 3-1 at the break. An early penalty from Yaya Toure set the favorites for the PL title on their way, but then Rickie Lambert scored from that spot to deservedly put Saints level. However a real moment of controversy arrived in first half stoppage time, as David Silva teed up Samir Nasri to put City 2-1 up, but Silva was stood five yards offside. Saints manager Mauricio Pochettino was incensed, but another goal from Edin Dzeko before the break and a late Stevan Jovetic strike sealed the win. Bad news for Saints and England, Jay Rodriguez suffered a nasty looking knee injury and could miss the World Cup.

Newcastle 0-4 Manchester United

Juan Mata is clicking into ominous form for Man United, as the diminutive Spaniard curled in a free kick then slotted in a second, before setting up Adnan Januzaj to score with his wonderful back-heel late on. Javier Hernandez netted United’s other goal, as Newcastle were woeful and David Moyes hailed his squad players who stepped in and delivered. Next up: Bayern Munich away in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal.

Norwich City 0-1 West Bromwich Albion

Morgan Amalfitano scored the game’s only goal, as the Baggies celebrated just their second win under Pepe Mel. It was a tight and tense affair at Carrow Road, as Norwich now sit just one place above the drop zone after losing this crucial relegation six-pointer. Massive win for West Brom, but are the Canaries in danger of being relegated?

Aston Villa 1-2 Fulham: A vital three points could help Cottagers reach safety (video)

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Fulham aren’t in the clear yet, but their win over Aston Villa provided a lifeline to the Cottagers. They’re now in 18th, five points from safety.

With Aston Villa missing three quality attackers in Christian Benteke, Gabby Agbonlahor and Fabian Delph, and Fulham being, well, Fulham, it came as little surprise that the first half brought little action.

The hosts’ best chance came just after the half-hour mark. A beautiful pass from Marc Albrighton, possibly Villa’s best player on the day, found Leandro Bacuna as he wiggled free of two Fulham defenders. David Stockdale was on hand, however, with a diving save to keep Villa from taking the lead.

With ten minutes left to play in the first half, the visitors started to make their presence felt, forcing Brad Guzan into two great saves. For the first, the American denied young Cauley Woodrow from point-blank range, and for the second, Guzan was able to keep the scoreline scoreless at the break by denying Holtby just before the whistle.

Felix Magath made a double change to start the second half, taking off Cauley Woodrow and Pajtim Kasami for Hugo Rodellega and Ashkan Dejagah, but it was the hosts that looked the more lively after the restart. Leandro Bacuna very nearly put Villa ahead after collecting Grant Holt’s layoff, but Stockdale got a hand to it and the shot only collided with the post.

Of course, for Villa looking bright often means they’re on the verge of conceding. Sure enough, it was Fulham that opened the scoring. Kieran Richardson got on the end of a ball from substitute Dejagah, and, firing from over 20 yards out, managed to beat Guzan to send the ball into the top corner of the net.

But this is Fulham, who, prior to the match, had already conceded 73 goals this season. So it caused little surprise when Grant Holt managed to find his first goal for Aston Villa, in the 70th minute. Fulham left the forward unmarked on the far post, enabling him to easily get on the end of a corner from Albrighton to nod past Stockdale.

The equalizer brought a frentic final twenty minutes to the match. Goal-line technology was called into action after Lewis Holtby rounded Guzan, prompting Matt Lowton to slide in, making a fantastic clearance. The Villa defender nicked it just in time, with the ball staying out by the thinnest of margins.

But no one was there to rescue the Villa in the 86th minute, when Fulham took the lead once more. Again, it was a substitute making the difference, with Rodellaga on hand to flick Holtby’s cross in past Guzan. Possibly a pivotal goal for the Cottagers – could this be the moment that saves their season?

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Bertrand, Westwood, Bennett (Tonev 66), Bacuna, Albrighton (Bowery 90), Weimann, Holt

Goals: Holt 70′

Fulham: Stockdale; Riether, Hangeland, Heitinga (Riise 83), Amorebieta; Diarra, Sidwell; Kasami (Dejagah 46), Holtby, Richardson; Woodrow (Rodallega 46)

Goals: Richardson 61′; Rodallega 86′

Watch Live: Aston Villa vs. Fulham (Lineups and Discuss)

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Fulham travel to Villa Park on Saturday, knowing that they absolutely must beat Aston Villa to keep their faint hopes of another season in the Premier League alive (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET online via Live Extra).

With just one win in their last twelve outings, Fulham currently sit dead last, five points from safety. Their Premier League future is further complicated by the fact that West Brom and Crystal Palace both have a game in hand, while Sunderland still have two games to make up. Considering two managerial changes and the addition of six new players in the winter did nothing to bolster their chances, are the Cottagers dead and buried?

Perhaps not. After all, Villa are well known for being a team to break their opponents’ slumps. And with two consecutive 4-1 losses, this might be the time for Fulham to take advantage of their hosts – particularly now that Christian Benteke is out with a season-ending Achilles tear.

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Villa are missing some major firepower, with Gabby Agbonlahor and Fabian Delph joining the aforementioned Benteke in the stands. Grant Holt steps in to seek his first goal with Aston Villa, joined by Matt Lowton, Joe Bennett and Nathan Baker. Will the hosts have any goals in them?

17-year-old Moussa Dembele doesn’t get the chance to start two consecutive matches, which is unfortunate as he was one of the few bright spots against Everton last weekend. Instead it’s another youngster, Cauley Woodrow, stepping in in front of on-loan Lewis Holtby.

LINEUPS

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Bertrand, Westwood, Bennett, Bacuna, Albrighton, Weimann, Holt

Subs: Steer, Sylla, Tonev, Clark, Robinson, Luna, Bowery

Fulham: Stockdale; Riether, Hangeland, Heitinga, Amorebieta; Diarra, Sidwell; Kasami, Holtby, Richardson; Woodrow

Subs: Stekelenburg, Riise, Kvist, Kačaniklić, Rodallega, Dejagah, Roberts

Aston Villa 0-2 West Ham: Kevin Nolan brace sinks the Villa (video)

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Sam Allardyce will go to bed happy tonight, with the West Ham win over Aston Villa pulling his side out of the bottom three. The Irons are just two points into safety, but the victory is absolutely vital to the side. As for Villa, they’re back where they least wanted to be: fighting a relegation battle once more, a mere four points above the drop.

Villa should’ve been warned in the first half. In the 23rd minute, Stewart Downing missed a fantastic chance to put West Ham in front. Matt Jarvis put in the cross and the former Villa man, presented with the ball on a silver platter, somehow managed to put it through his own legs. Missing sitters like that – it seemed inevitable that the winger wouldn’t rest until he’d had his shot at redemption.

And it came shortly after the restart. Just three minutes after the start of the second half, West Ham had a 2-0 lead, thanks to a brace from Kevin Nolan. The first came in the 46th minute, when Downing got behind the defense to send in a low cross. Nolan executed a tricky little backheel, defeating Brad Guzan and giving his side the lead.

(MORE: Premier League Roundup Chelsea go top, Liverpool hammer Arsenal, big wins at the bottom)

But that wasn’t enough for Nolan. Two minutes and forty seconds later, he scored his second. The fault for this one lies on Fabian Delph who, rather than clear danger, attempted to take the ball outside of the area only to be met by Nolan. The easily stolen ball was fired into the bottom corner to put West Ham up 2-0.

With just over thirty minutes left to play, Paul Lambert made a decent attempt at jolting his side into action, introducing winger Marc Albrighton for right-back Matthew Lowton. Soon thereafter Albrighton sent in a rocket from distance, but could only connect with the far post. In what would seem almost farcical to anyone not supporting Villa, the ball then bounced out, hit West Ham keeper Adrian on the back, and bounced over the top of the goal.

And that pretty much spelled the end for the hosts. Allardyce pulled his side back and had them defending, and no matter what Villa tried (including the introduction of on-loan striker Grant Holt) they just couldn’t find a way through.

LINEUPS

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton (Albrighton 56), Clark, Baker, Bertrand (Bennett 74), Bacuna, Westwood, Delph, Weimann (Holt 71), Benteke, Agbonlahor

West Ham United: Adrian, Demel, Tomkins, Collins, McCartney, Nolan (Nocerino 68), Noble, Taylor, Jarvis (Reid 74), C.Cole (Borriello 45), Downing

Subs: Jaaskelainen, Reid, Armero, Collison, Johnson, Borriello, Nocerino

Goals: Nolan 46′, 48′