Burnley’s fight to avoid relegation from the Premier League continues on Thursday as they travel to the West Midlands to take on Aston Villa at Villa Park.
Some detractors may argue that Steven Gerrard has performed below expectations since arriving at Villa Park, with the Lions embarking on a spending spree but competing in the lower echelons of the table during an underwhelming 2022.
With only two wins from their last nine Premier League games to shout about, Gerrard’s side finds themselves languishing in 14th in the table at the time of writing but only four points behind Leicester City, so a top-half finish is not entirely out of the question just yet.
Facing Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on the final day could hardly represent a more challenging way to end the season, where the former Anfield skipper may have to steer his side to the unlikeliest of results if he is to ensure that Liverpool will remain in the title conversation until the last knockings.
The Villains can take solace in the fact that they have overcome both Chelsea and Arsenal in their final home games of the season over the past two years, but Gerrard’s side have only won twice at home in 2022 and ought to be prepared for a true battle in physicality this week.
Tempers boiled over in the tunnel as Burnley’s resistance was undone by a somewhat controversial penalty call at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, as Ashley Barnes’s strangely outstretched arm handed Harry Kane the opportunity to power home from 12 yards deep into first-half stoppage time.
Jackson’s side will begin Thursday down in the relegation zone but will rise above Leeds United with a point at Villa Park, while a victory could also see Everton there for the taking if the Toffees fail to get the better of Crystal Palace at the same time.
With a rampageous Newcastle United visiting Turf Moor on the final day of the season, gleaning a positive result from Villa Park is of crucial importance to the Clarets, but they have only won just twice away from home in the top flight all season long.
However, it has only been a week and a bit since Aston Villa ran out 3-1 winners over Burnley at Turf Moor, but the Clarets have gone without defeat in their last three league games at Villa Park and must channel the spirits of teams past by to keep their heads above water in the relegation dogfight.
WHERE AND WHEN?
Venue: Villa Park.
Date: Thursday, 19th May 2022.
Time: 20:00 (BST).
Referee: Paul Tierney.
Assistant referee: Lee Betts, Simon Long.
Fourth official: Craig Dawson.
VAR: John Brooks.
Assistant VAR: Sian Massey-Ellis.
LEAGUE FORM (LAST SIX):
Aston Villa: LDWWLD
TEAM NEWS & ANALYSIS
Steven Gerrard admitted after the draw with Palace that he was “concerned” about the knee injury that Ezri Konsa picked up in the 50th minute, and the centre-back is not expected to play again this season.
Kortney Hause and Leon Bailey are keeping Konsa company on the treatment table, although the latter should return before the campaign ends next weekend, while Calum Chambers should step in for his counterpart at the back.
Villa will certainly miss Konsa’s strength and might at the backup against the likes of Weghorst or Ashley Barnes who certainly caused havoc to the Spurs backline at the weekend. If he carries on such performances, Chambers and Mings could well be in for a tough afternoon on home soil.
Jacob Ramsey will also expect a recall to the first XI alongside the ever-present John McGinn and Douglas Luiz, providing some much-needed thrust, final third threat and decisiveness, after coming on for Marvelous Nakamba on the 66-minute mark against Palace, while Emiliano Buendia has fond memories of this fixture and could well be in the conversation for a starting spot.
Meanwhile, Burnley boss Jackson is still sweating over the fitness of key centre-back pairing Ben Mee and James Tarkowski, with the former thought to have a slim chance of coming back this week.
Kevin Long and Nathan Collins have both stepped up admirably when needed, but Jackson certainly needs the experience, nous and qualities of Mee and Tarkowski if they are to escape the drop come Sunday night.
Dale Stephens and Erik Peters should also be fine to come in – the same can well be said for Jay Rodriguez – but Matej Vydra, Ashley Westwood, and Johann Berg Gudmundsson remain out of action for the Clarets.
Wout Weghorst was sacrificed as Jackson opted for a defensively-minded setup in the defeat to Spurs, but the Dutchman will expect to return and spearhead the charge at Villa Park.
PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
The former Burnley man over the past few weeks has certainly hit top form in Villa colours. Upon his move last summer, he was supposed to be the man the club relied on for goals but struggled to hit the heights expected of him as both Dean Smith and Steven Gerrard struggled to find a system that could accommodate both Ings and Watkins.
However, in recent weeks, the former Liverpool skipper seems to have found the right formula, with the trio of Watkins, Ings and Coutinho causing havoc to defences. Against Liverpool, they were at their fluid best despite the defeat and another day Ings may well have found himself with two goals had he been more ruthless on the night.
Danny Ings has directly contributed to 7 goals in his last 7 Premier League appearances:
⚽️🅰️🅰️ vs Southampton
🅰️ vs Leeds
⚽️🅰️ vs Norwich
⚽️ vs Burnley
Putting the pressure on Burnley…👀🧨 pic.twitter.com/Q5Hh5iD3Zk
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) May 7, 2022
In the last ten appearances, Ings has been on-song for Gerrard registering three goals and four assists including a goal in the reverse fixture on 7 May. If Villa are to end the season on a high, then they would certainly need Ings to continue to his fine run of form.
When Burnley signed Cornet there will have been an admission that a Champions League-calibre player is unlikely to want to play in the Championship. Indeed, his qualities are simply too good for it. Recent reports state that if the club were to go down, Cornet could be snapped up for a respectable fee of £17.5m for his services, as shown in his relegation release clause.
Cornet took a gamble moving to Burnley but he wanted to play Premier League football and has so far managed to deliver on the excitement made upon his arrival to England.
In his last eight Premier League games, he’s only managed two goals and an assist to his name but he still remains a hugely pivotal fixture in the Burnley camp, and any points Mike Jackson’s side accumulates over the next few days, the Ivorian international will more than likely be the main protagonist.
ASTON VILLA (4-3-1-2): Martinez (GK); Cash, Chambers, Mings, Digne; McGinn, Luiz, Ramsey; Buendia, Watkins, Coutinho.
BURNLEY (4-4-2): Pope (GK); Roberts, Collins, Long, Taylor; McNeil, Cork, Brownhill, Cornet; Barnes, Weghorst.
Aston Villa vs Burnley: 2-1