Preview: Aston Villa vs. Southampton

Paul Lambert manager of Aston Villa looks on prior to the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa at The Hawthorns on November 25, 2013
© Getty Images
Sports Mole previews the Premier League clash between Aston Villa and Southampton at Villa Park as the hosts attempt to halt a run of four consecutive defeats.

Four straight defeats and the suspension of several staff members suggest that Aston Villa's season is in danger of falling apart at the worst possible time.

Assistant manager Ian Culverhouse and head of football operations Gary Karsa were removed from club training this week "pending an internal investigation."

It is believed that the pair's suspension centres on accusations of bullying during practice sessions.

Gordan Cowans and veteran goalkeeper Shay Given have been promoted to Paul Lambert's deputies to help halt a slide down the table which is taking them dangerously close to the relegation zone.

A month without a Premier League point has seen them dragged back into the mire, and they now sit only four points above the bottom three ahead of Southampton's visit to Villa Park on Saturday.

Having lost their last two matches, the Saints are also in need of a result to prevent a campaign that had started so brightly from petering out, while a strong finish could persuade manager Mauricio Pochettino, who is apparently being courted by Tottenham Hotspur, and several of their sought-after stars to stay.

One of those who will not feature in the Midlands is Jay Rodriguez, with the Three Lions international forward expected to miss six months of action after suffering knee ligament damage.

With the 15-goal striker unavailable, Gaston Ramirez could be given another start on the wing, although James Ward-Prowse and Guly do Prado are other options available to the South Coast club.

After missing two matches through injury, first-choice goalkeeper Artur Boruc could be back in between the posts if he passes a late fitness test, with Paulo Gazzaniga again on standby to deputise.

Lambert's increasing problems are compounded by one of the longest injury lists in the division, with Jores Okore, Libor Kozak, Chris Herd and Leandro Bacuna among those on the treatment table.

Christian Benteke is the most notable of his injured absentees, so, like his opposite number this weekend, Lambert will be without a top goalscorer who has also been ruled out of the World Cup this summer.

Ciaran Clark is likely to drop out for the hosts as they revert to their usual 4-3-3 formation, having played with a trio of central defenders in the 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace in their last outing.

Southampton, who lost 1-0 at home to relegation-threatened Cardiff City last weekend, won at Villa Park by the same scoreline last term courtesy of a first-half Rickie Lambert penalty.

Recent form

Villa: LLLLWW

Southampton: LLWLWW

Possible starting lineups

Villa: Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Bertrand; Westwood, El Ahmadi, Delph; Weimann, Agbonlahor, Holt

Southampton: Boruc; Chambers, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw; Cork, Schneiderlin, Davis; Ramirez, Lallana, Lambert

Sports Mole says: 1-2

Aston Villa's US owner Randy Lerner looks on before the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and West Ham United at Villa Park, Birmingham, West Midlands, England, on August 14, 2010
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