Saturday’s pivotal encounter with fellow strugglers Newcastle United marks the beginning of a massive period in Aston Villa’s season.
Rock bottom of the Premier League as the campaign approaches the halfway point, Remi Garde’s side face West Ham United, Norwich City and Sunderland after this weekend’s trip to St James’ Park.
With just six points on the board, Villa realistically need at least three wins from their next four games to stand any chance of survival.
Given that they have not triumphed in the top flight since a narrow 1-0 victory at Bournemouth on the opening day, that target already seems unlikely.
In many ways, Villa’s slump to the foot of the table this season has been a long time in the making.
After spending a brief time challenging for the top four under Martin O’Neill, between 2007 and 2010, the club with the proud record of having never been relegated from the Premier League have slipped closer and closer to the drop zone.
Following their ninth-place finish in 2010/11, Villa ended the four subsequent campaigns in 16th, 15th, 15th and 17th. Three different managers – Alex McLeish, Paul Lambert and Tim Sherwood – tried and failed to halt the slide.
The only club to have fewer points at this stage of a Premier League season were Sunderland, in 2005/06, who were relegated in April and ended the campaign with a return of three wins, six draws and 29 losses.
There is still time for Villa to turn things around, as unlikely as that eventuality appears at the moment.
Garde’s men need to get some points on the board before it is too late, starting with today’s crucial clash with Newcastle.
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