Premier League preview: Aston Villa v West Ham
By Football News
The fight against relegation ramps up for Aston Villa as they host West Ham at Villa Park on Sunday.
Paul Lambert finds his side in 19th position with the worst goal difference (-26) in the league after embarking on a winless run that has now stretched to eight games.
The slide was gradually halted by a 3-3 draw at Everton last weekend, but the result still saw Villa throw away a 3-1 lead with just over 20 minutes to play.
West Ham are hovering around mid-table after enduring an mixed campaign which has seen them beat Chelsea and draw against Manchester City but also lose 11 games - one less than Villa and bottom-placed QPR.
An Andy Carroll-inspired 1-0 win against Swansea last weekend snapped a four game winless streak and they will know that games against teams like Villa will prove crucial to whether they are sucked into a relegation battle at season's end.
The last meeting between the two sides was on the opening weekend of the season as West Ham claimed a 1-0 win through a 40th-minute Kevin Nolan strike.
West Ham have lacked a prolific striker all season with midfielders Nolan (six) and Mark Noble (four) top-scoring in the league while strikers Carroll, Carlton Cole and Modibo Maiga have only contributed two goals each.
Defender Winston Reid has proved an astute purchase for West Ham after impressing during the 2010 World Cup for New Zealand.
The 24-year-old, who can play centre-back and full-back, has made the most appearances for his club this season, starting every Premier League game.
By contrast, Aston Villa does have a prolific striker in Christian Benteke (10) but the Belgian target-man lacks support with Andreas Weimann (four), Gabriel Agbonlahor (three) and Darren Bent (two) the only multiple scorers in a team that only has eight individual players to have recorded a goal.
Talented midfielder Charles N'Zogbia has not developed into the player he was once touted to become after setting the Premier League alight at times while at Newcastle and Wigan and Lambert will be hoping he can find some form as the team faces a likely relegation fight.
Sam Allardyce will still be without central defender James Collins (hamstring) while left-back George McCartney (knee) is also absent creating a problem position with young understudy Dean Potts (concussion) still unavailable.
It's been a frustrating season for Aston Villa's Richard Dunne (groin) who is yet to make an appearance and will again miss the weekend while Marc Albrighton (ankle) and Chris Herd (foot) also rob Lambert of first-team options.
Aston Villa have a good record at Villa Park against West Ham having not lost to them since 2006 - a record that Lambert will be praying continues.