Preview: Aston Villa vs. Hull City

Preview: Villa vs. Hull
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Sports Mole previews the clash between hosting Aston Villa and Hull City as Paul Lambert's men look to secure their Premier League status with a first win in seven.

Aston Villa will feel that they must beat Hull City this weekend to halt a slide down the table that is threatening to end their ever-present Premier League status.

The Midlands outfit, who have played in every season of the competition since its inauguration in 1992, have picked up just one point from their last six games.

This run has seen them slip alarmingly from the top half of the table to only two points above the relegation zone with two matches of the season remaining.

The fact that Villa's final two games are trips to Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur puts extra pressure on them to claim maximum points against the Tigers this Saturday to climb clear of trouble.

The FA Cup finalists are not mathematically safe yet themselves, but the five places between them and the bottom three should give Steve Bruce confidence that their pre-season objective has been achieved.

The January signings of Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic have helped Hull move towards survival, and their late goals in the 2-2 draw at Fulham last weekend earned their side what could be a crucial point, particularly considering that it denied the Whites two which would have brought the chasing pack closer.

Long has shaken off a muscle strain picked up earlier this month to maintain his place up front, but Robbie Brady and Paul McShane are long-term absentees and will not feature at Villa Park.

Goalkeeper Allan McGregor will also sit this one out, but is making a quicker-than-expected recovery from the kidney damage suffered against West Ham United, and could yet make Hull's Wembley date next month.

Villa's poor form has coincided with injury to top scorer Christian Benteke, and the Belgian international's six-month layoff with an Achilles problem will see him miss Hull's visit, and the World Cup.

Along with five other senior players, Libor Kozak is also sidelined and so Paul Lambert's lack of forward options may see Gabriel Agbonlahor, who scored for the first time since New Year's Day in the 4-1 loss to Swansea City, deployed through the middle again.

Leandro Bacuna limped off at half time at the Liberty Stadium and is a doubt with a muscle strain, so Matt Lowton is on standby to deputise at right-back, a position he filled for much of last season.

Recent form

Villa: LDLLLL

Hull: DLWLLW

Possible starting lineups

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

Hull: Harper; Rosenior, Bruce, Chester, Davies, Elmohamady; Huddlestone, Livermore, Meyler; Long, Jelavic

Sports Mole says: 0-1

Felix Magath, Manager of Fulham looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Newcastle United at Craven Cottage on March 15, 2014
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