Aston Villa-Bournemouth Preview
It is possible Aston Villa may be one and done in the Premier League this term, but they will at least be playing for a trophy. Bournemouth, however, are continuing their effort to fight their way out of the drop with a key six-point belter Saturday at Dean Court.
Despite entering this match 16th in the table on 25 points, Aston Villa (7-4-13) have punched above their weight in the Carabao Cup and earned themselves a trip to Wembley opposite holders Manchester City with a 3-2 aggregate victory over Leicester City on Tuesday. The Villans won the second leg 2-1 at home, with a stoppage-time goal by Mahmoud Trezeguet proving decisive and sending Holte End supporters into delight.
It marks the first time Aston Villa have an opportunity to lift a trophy since losing to Arsenal in the 2015 FA Cup. The Villans, who won the Championship last term, have not won the Carabao Cup since 1996 - the fifth time they were crowned League Cup champions.
Matt Targett scored the other goal for Aston Villa, his first since his lone league marker in October. He deflected praise to playmaker Jack Grealish, who likely will be the primary difference-maker in Villa's bid for survival in the top flight.
"We understand each other's game, I played with him before I came to Aston Villa (with England) so I knew what type of player he is, what he wants and how to get the best out of him," Targett explained to the team's official website. "When I'm playing with him, I think it brings the best out of me, we complement each other very nicely."
In league play, Villa's form has been slowly improving with five points in their last four contests. They also have a chance for three wins on the trot in all competitions for the first time this season, coming off a 2-1 victory over Watford on Jan. 21 as Tyrone Mings was the stoppage-time hero.
While Villa have just one win in their last 10 road matches in all competitions (1-3-6), they have collected points in three of their last four contests outside Villa Park with a victory and two draws. The Midlands club, however, have just eight road points in 12 matches while shipping 24 goals and failing to record a clean sheet.
Bournemouth (6-5-13) enter this match at the top of the drop on 23 points, bracketed by West Ham United and Watford via goal difference. The Cherries have no cup distractions for their final 14 matches, with their FA Cup journey ending Monday with a 2-1 defeat to Arsenal.
Eddie Howe's team were down two within the first half-hour and could only muster Sam Surridge's second-half, stoppage-time goal in response. Howe also spent the match tinkering tactically, opening with a 4-4-2 formation that had Ryan Fraser at centre-forward before reverting to form after yielding the second goal.
"I don't think Ryan did too bad. I thought it was more the team wasn't good," Howe explained to the Bournemouth Echo. "It was just something we wanted to look at just in case our strikers got injured. We're so thin on the ground.
"Can Ryan play up front for us? He's done it before, but I don't think it was anything to do with his individual performance, the team behind him weren't good enough."
Bournemouth, who ended a four-match league losing streak and won for just the second time in 13 such contests Jan. 21 with a 3-1 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion, have not won back-to-back contests in Premier League play since September.
The Cherries are attempting to do the double, spoiling Aston Villa's home opener with a 2-1 victory in August. Joshua King converted from the spot in the second minute after Callum Wilson was hauled down and Harry Wilson doubled Bournemouth's advantage 10 minutes later.
Douglas Luiz pulled one back on 71 minutes for Villa, who won their only Premier League matchup at Dean Court in the 2015-16 following Bournemouth's promotion.
Updated January 30, 2020