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Preview: Fulham v Aston Villa
28 Jan 2010 - 14:39:47
Aston Villa make the trip to capital on Saturday to face Roy Hodgson's Fulham at Craven Cottage.
The visitors will be looking for a much-needed three points if they are to continue their unrealistic top-four charge, but after picking up a draw at Villa Park against Arsenal on Wednesday evening, Martin O'Neill's men could be confident.
Villa are four points adrift of Tottenham Hotspur, who occupy the fourth and final Champions League place, although they do have a game in hand over their London rivals.
Fulham will not be an easy conquest for the Midlands outfit, especially with a fine home record that has steered them into top-half contention.
They have not lost at Craven Cottage since the 1-0 defeat to Arsenal on September 26 and 11 games has passed since this setback.
Fulham will proudly look back knowing they have put Liverpool and champions Manchester United handsomely to the sword in this sequence.
Despite this, Fulham's last four Premier League fixtures have all been away from home, and they have lost each one to Chelsea, Stoke City, Blackburn Rovers and Spurs and it is a mini-slump that Hodgson will want to arrest.
Fulham's progress has been hindered with the loss of several key first-team players in recent times.
American star Clint Dempsey, Andrew Johnson and John Paintsil (all knee) will be missing with Paul Konchesky (ankle) struggling to shake off his problem.
Villa currently have few injury concerns which must delight O'Neill at this crucial stage of the season, although midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker has been ruled out for three months with an ankle problem.
The Villans have secured their place in the final of the Carling Cup after semi-final wins against Blackburn and it was the same side they knocked out of the FA Cup.
A further FA Cup win against Brighton & Hove Albion has put them into the fifth round and after picking up draws with West Ham United and Arsenal, a win at the Cottage would certainly increase team morale as they look to remain unbeaten.