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Preview: Aston Villa v West Ham
14 Jan 2010 - 14:00:31
Aston Villa's pursuit of a top-four finish in the Premier League sees them play their second game in the space of 72 hours on Sunday.
The visit of West Ham United to Villa Park follows hard of the heels of Thursday's rearranged Carling Cup semi-final first leg against Blackburn Rovers.
Villa boss Martin O'Neill would dearly love to end the season with some silverware and the League Cup may be his best opportunity, but there is no doubting that this game has more importance to the Midlands club.
They have dropped behind main top four rivals Manchester City and Tottenham to sixth place after back-to-back league defeats at the hands of Arsenal and Liverpool and are in desperate need of the three points on Sunday in order to stop the gap widening further.
O'Neill does have the luxury of a near fully-fit squad to select from with only long-term absentee Curtis Davies (dislocated shoulder) unavailable.
England midfielder James Milner has shrugged off a fit problem and likely to return to the side.
Meanwhile, the Hammers also need the points but for very different reasons as Gianfranco Zola's side continue to languish in the lower reaches of the table.
Their last league game - a 2-0 defeat at Spurs on December 28 - left them outside the drop zone on goal difference only and these continue to be worrying times for the Upton Park faithful.
The combination of one of the smallest squads in the top-flight and one of the longest injury lists is a recipe for disaster and Zola will once again be without the likes of Carlton Cole (knee), Zavon Hines (knee), Kieron Dyer (hamstring) and Danny Gabbidon (knee).
Hines was the scorer of the last-minute winner when the Hammers beat Villa 2-1 at Upton Park in November - just one of their four league wins this season.
With just one away win all season, the Hammers will need to improve if they are to take anything back to the capital.