Feb 8, 2014, 9:35 AM EST
For every team in the bottom half of the Premier League table, each match is a relegation battle – but West Ham’s visit to Villa Park is truly vital, as a win could lift the Irons out of the drop zone (watch live online on NBC Sports Live Extra at 10 a.m. ET).
West Ham have picked up four points from their last two matches, picking up a draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge before beating Swansea City 2-0 at Upton Park last weekend. But that doesn’t mean they’re out of the drop zone just yet – their fellow strugglers are also improving, and so the Irons remain a point from safety. That likely means we’ll be treated to a display more in line with what was seen at the Bridge than the actual attacking football the side showed off in the first hour last weekend.
Aston Villa’s form may have improved in recent weeks, but just because they’re sitting tenth doesn’t mean they’re out of danger – that’s just five points above the drop. Paul Lambert, who entered contract negotiations this week, knows that appeasing the fans means improving the home record, and it’s likely the hosts will go all out to find three points rather than one.
Last week, Andy Carroll was sent off with a straight red after an altercation with Swansea defender Chico Flores. Despite West Ham appealing their appeal to the FA, the three-match ban still stands, and Carroll with miss out. Instead it’s Carlton Cole that Sam Allardyce has put up front, favoring the devil he knows over new forward Marco Borriello, who remains on the bench.
Villa make two changes to the side that lost against Everton last week. Captain Ron Vlaar misses out with injury, with Matthew Lowton stepping into defense. Gabby Agbonlahor takes over the armband, taking over from Grant Holt, with Andi Weimann and Christian Benteke joining him up top.
Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Clark, Baker, Bertrand, Bacuna, Westwood, Delph, Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor
Subs: Steer, El Ahmadi, Sylla, Helenius, Albrighton, Holt, Bennett.
West Ham United: Adrian, Demel, Tomkins, Collins, McCartney, Nolan, Noble, Taylor, Jarvis, C.Cole, Downing
Subs: Jaaskelainen, Reid, Armero, Collison, Johnson, Borriello, Nocerino
- PST Extra: Relegation in focus ahead of six-pointer in Cardiff 0
- Major League Soccer Preview: An alternate view of the 2014 regular season 0
- Premier League Power Rankings: Top four shuffle, as pivotal stretch arrives – Week 28 0
- Ranking the candidates for MLS’s next two expansion teams (after Don Garber’s Tuesday Q-and-A) 4
- MLS Season Preview: Ranking the top 10 midfielders 0
- U.S. Soccer confirms three-game send-off series ahead of 2014 World Cup 3
- Revs Notebook: Targeting Strikers, Imbongo's Reds & Fagundez's Left Foot
- Chicago Fire Players to Watch for in 2014
- FC Dallas Unveil 2014 Home Kit
- Eddie Johnson's Bumpy Road to Designated Player Status
- Adidas & Nike Unveil Hybrid Cleats to Change Soccer Forever
- Preview: Sporting KC at Seattle Sounders FC
- Chelsea Face Stiff Test When Tottenham Visit the Bridge
- Egyptian Player Banned for Using 'Sisi' Sign
- Houston Dynamo Players to Watch During the 2014 MLS Season
- Vancouver Whitecaps: Players to Watch During the 2014 MLS Season