Burnley’s bid for Premier League survival continues on Thursday as they travel to the West Midlands to take on Aston Villa for the second time in less than a fortnight.

Aston Villa failed to build on their positive performance in the narrow defeat to Liverpool as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Crystal Palace on home turf at the weekend. The Villans are sitting 14th in the Premier League table with 44 points. While there is still an outside chance of a top-half finish, games against relegation-threatened Burnley and a rampaging Manchester City could prove tricky for Steven Gerrard’s side.

Aston Villa have made slow progress under Gerrard after an early pink patch, and still have a lot of room for improvement considering the quality of their squad. The hosts have got nothing but pride to play for, since they are comfortably clear of the drop zone. Villa have a poor return of just two wins from their last nine league games, and that too, only against lowly Norwich and Burnley. But they will want to put on a show for their fans on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Burnley find themselves in the relegation zone heading into the final week of the 2021/22 campaign. The Clarets hierarchy took a gamble by sacking Sean Dyche ahead of the decisive phase of the season, and it seemed to work initially as caretaker boss Mike Jackson guided the team to a three-game winning run.

However, back-to-back defeats since then, including in the reverse fixture against Villa, have derailed their push for survival and sent the Clarets back into the relegation zone. The visitors are still in control of their destiny, lying only one point behind 17th-placed Leeds and with a game in hand, as they prepare for a trip to the West Midlands to lock horns with Aston Villa.

A win at Villa Park would lift them out of the bottom three with only one game remaining, as Burnley will be desperate to avoid a situation in which they go into the final game of the season against Newcastle United at Turf Moor banking on Leeds to slip up at Brentford.

Team News & Tactics

Aston Villa

Aston Villa look set to be without the services of centre-back Ezri Konsa for their final two games after he limped off in the 1-1 draw against Crystal Palace, picking up a serious long-term knee injury in the process. Meanwhile, Leon Bailey (ankle) and Kortney Hause (knock) remain on the treatment table due to their respective injuries.

Steven Gerrard opted for a two-striker system in the last two games and could stick with it for the visit of Burnley, though a couple of enforced changes are possible. The former Liverpool legend is sweating over the fitness of first-choice goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez but expects the Argentine to pull through the minor issue, with Aston Villa lining up in a 4-3-1-2 formation in front of him.

In Konsa’s absence, Calum Chambers should get a chance to make an impression at the heart of the Villa backline, with Tyrone Mings his central defensive partner. Konsa’s positional awareness and ability to snuff out danger would indeed be a huge miss against the likes of Weghorst and Ashley Barnes, so Chambers and Mings must be wary of the apparent aerial threat and physical battle.

Having started every game in the Premier League this season, Matty Cash remains an ever-present figure down the right, whereas Lucas Digne will have the license to maraud forward and hit in teasing crosses for the potent strike-force of Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins, with the latter also making runs in behind the opposition defence.

Jacob Ramsey made the bench at the weekend and will be looking to reclaim his starting position on Thursday, leading to a reshuffle in the midfield pack, with Douglas Luiz shifting back to the anchor role and John McGinn positioning himself on the right side.

Philippe Coutinho may be rested for the midweek clash, with Emi Buendia likely to deputise for the Brazilian in the attacking midfield role as he looks to churn opportunities for the forward line as well as looking to get himself on the scoresheet.

Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Martinez; Cash, Chambers, Mings, Digne; McGinn, Luiz, Ramsey; Buendia; Ings, Watkins

Burnley

Jay Rodriguez, who has missed the last three games due to a hamstring injury, might make his return to the squad. The same goes for Dale Stephens and Erik Pieters, who missed Sunday’s game as a precautionary measure.

The involvement of James Tarkowski (hamstring) and Ben Mee (leg injury) is doubtful in this vital clash after they watched on from the sidelines over the weekend. But the central defensive duo is back on the grass in full training and showing promising signs of returning against Newcastle.

That said, Johann Berg Gudmundsson (calf), ex-Villan Ashley Westwood (ankle), and Matej Vydra (knee) remain long-term absentees. Caretaker boss Mike Jackson went to a defensive-minded back-five setup in the 1-0 defeat against Tottenham but may revert to his preferred 4-4-2 system here, while a couple of personnel tweaks are also expected.

Nick Pope will take his usual place between the sticks for the Clarets against Aston Villa. Kevin Long and Nathan Collins are set to form the central defensive partnership, while Charlie Taylor and Connor Roberts are likely to be playing as the full-backs for this clash.

Jack Cork and Josh Brownhill will be stationed at the centre of the park, with the duo holding down the fort in the midfield with their defence-first approach. Dwight McNeil has emerged as a creative force from the right-wing in a reinvented system that has seen Burnley shift from lumping up long balls forward to progressing with control by knitting short-quick passes.

Maxwel Cornet has been a star player in Burnley’s ranks this season and will be counted on to conjure up some magic in the last few games to drag his side out of trouble. Wout Weghorst has only netted two goals in 18 league appearances since joining Burnley but may return to the playing eleven to be the main protagonist of the Clarets’ attack alongside Ashley Barnes at Villa Park.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Pope; Roberts, Collins, Long, Taylor; McNeil, Cork, Brownhill, Cornet; Barnes, Weghorst

Key Stats

  • Burnley have lost just one of their last five league visits to Villa Park since a 5-2 defeat in 2010 (W3 D3).
  • Following a comprehensive 3-1 victory in the reverse fixture earlier this month, Aston Villa are looking to complete their first league double over the Clarets since way back in 1925/26 campaign.
  • Burnley have been pretty dismal away from home this season, with only two wins, and boast the league’s third-worst record, picking up only 13 points from 54 available.
  • Aston Villa have only won one of their last five Premier League fixtures on home turf (D1 L3), and have only won twice at home in 2022.
  • However, Burnley have lost their final away league game in four of their previous five campaigns, last winning against an already demoted Norwich City side in the 2019/20 season.

Player to Watch

Danny Ings

Embed from Getty Images

Danny Ings is ending the season with a flourish for Aston Villa and has directly contributed to seven goals in his last nine outings. While there is no denying that he has struggled to live up to expectations since his arrival last summer, both Dean Smith and Steven Gerrard have been unable to find the right system that could suit both Ings and Watkins.

However, in recent weeks, the 29-year-old has rediscovered his form with Gerrard tweaking his original formation, with Coutinho now acting as a supplier to the front-two of Ings and Watkins, who threatened title-chasers Liverpool for large parts last week. Should Ings be more ruthless up top, it would not be a surprise to see him return to scoring ways against his former club this midweek.

Prediction

Aston Villa 1-1 Burnley

With so much at stake for Burnley, they should take the game to their opponents as they hunt for precious points to claw their way out of the drop zone heading into the final day. There is every chance that the home side may be lacking the same level of desire as their opponents in this penultimate game of the campaign, which could negatively affect their performance.

Hence, The Hard Tackle predicts an intense affair at Villa Park with the hosts taking their foot off the gas in the latter stages of the game, and the Clarets eking out a point, leaving the relegation scrap wide open for the final matchday.

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