Villa go to QPR short on form against a team very much in-form right now in what promises to be a tough trip to West London. It has been confirmed that Villa are definitely without Darren Bent, who joins Emile Heskey and Carlos Cuellar on the sidelines, while Jermaine Jenas remains a doubt with Alex McLeish saying he has a ’50-50′ chance of featuring.
Villa’s only real in-form outfielder of their own, Gabby Agbonlahor, is likely to play upfront on his own with the likes of N’Zogbia in support, though the club recalled youngster Andi Weimann from his loan spell at Watford and the Austrian is likely to be on the bench.
McLeish will almost certainly line-up with the same back four, with Chris unlucky to miss out to Alan Hutton at right-back in my opinion, but is in midfield where Villa have been dominated in recent times and the hosts will look to do so through Joey Barton and the impressive Alejandro Faurlin.
If Jenas does recover from injury in time I would urge his inclusion as the current set-up clearly isn’t working. Stilyan Petrov played in midweek despite an ankle problem and should be rested in my opinion, allowing the new signing to step in alongside Delph to ensure an energetic midfield duo.
Out wide Villa have struggled with Charles N’Zogbia seemingly finding it hard to adjust right now, though he is likely to serve as the main support line for Agbonlahor on Sunday. Barry Bannan is likely to continue in Emile Heskey’s absence, but with Gabby back up front there may be a place in the side for either Albrighton or Ireland despite disappointing showings against Bolton.
Villa will need to be wary of the threat from a rejuvenated Shaun Wright Phillips and Adel Taarabt from either flank, though the latter will drift infield. Therefore Hutton and Warnock will need to be on top of their game, while whomever starts in the middle will need to ensure that Barton and Faurlin don’t boss proceedings from the outset.
If there is a weakness to the QPR team it remains to be the defence, despite successive clean sheets. Danny Gabbidon is out meaning Fitz Hall could come in to partner Anton Ferdinand while Armand Traore will line-up on the left. On the opposite flank Villa will come up against Luke Young who was arguably Villa’s most reliable defender since his signing from Middlesbrough but left to return back home to London.
In attack, Collins and Dunne will face one of two very different propositions. Jay Bothroyd is a tall, technically gifted target man but with the striker yet to score the livewire that is DJ Campbell -formerly of Birmingham of course- could come in.
This game is likely to be a tight one. 3 of each of the sides 5 games have seen 2 or less goals scored and between them the two sides have failed to score on 5 five occasions. Villa have drawn 4 of their 5 games already this season, including their last 3.
QPR have started games reasonably well this season, scoring 3 of their 4 goals within the first 30 minutes of matches but Villa have only conceded 1 first half goal all season. The hosts have not conceded in the first half an hour at all but have shipped all of their 6 goals against between the 40th and 80th minute.
Aston Villa have hit the target with just 31% of their shots, the worst shooting accuracy in the top flight. Their opponents have hit a higher proportion of shots from long range than any other Premier League side (56%).
Aston Villa have kept just one clean sheet in their last 22 Premier League games away from home but are unbeaten in their last eight Premier League matches, their best run since March 2010.
Possible Villa XI: Given; Hutton, Collins, Dunne, Warnock; N’Zogbia, Ireland, Jenas, Delph, Bannan; Agbonlahor
Key Man: Stephen Warnock
Goalscorer(s): Gabby Agbonlahor
Final Score: QPR 2-1 Villa
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