Villa now just as big a threat as Spurs

As we head into the season's final lap, wounded by a late Paul Scholes header, the mood around the club is still generally upbeat. We now must win eight or nine points from a possible twelve. How we do so isn't important, just so long as reading the final table from north to south informs you that we've somehow gazumped a Spurs side who in all honesty have been better than us since August.

Our run-in could barely be more difficult. Less than half of the division's clubs realistically still have something to play for - we face four of them. Not that we're moaning, just a bit anxious that we're past Easter with something to still play for at the right end of the big league. As the only club in the top eight with no experience of battling for Europe (via the respected means, at least!), safe to say most Blues are feeling a mixture of trepidation, downright nerves, and the general 'typical City' expectation that we might royally balls it up.

It's long been thought that the game with Spurs, which could have quite easily been rescheduled for any of several dates over April, would be the biggie - a play-off of sorts - Gray, Keys & Redknapp Jnr shouting a lot for no reason, rubbing their hairy hands and nervously adjusting their skinny ties, respectively, as the "moneymen", a term no-one connected to Sky Sports can resist when discussing Manchester City, fall flat on their faces right at the wrong time.

Thing is, as much as a defeat that particular night would put Spurs more-or-less out of reach, i think we might be taking our eye off the ball in that a very good Aston Villa side are just as capable of coming to Eastlands and spoiling the party. A single league defeat in fifteen and three years of solid away form should command a touch more respect than assumptions that they'll merely be coming to make up the numbers.

Despite every man and his dog predicting that Villa would inevitably fall away they stand three wins off the seventy point mark that would normally see a club home. Their poorer goal difference could still see them fall just short even so, but they're going about their business effectively and quietly whilst those around them get most of the plaudits and headlines. The pressure isn't on them, and they know exactly what they have to do. With that in mind, i fail to see how it's a two-horse race.

By the time we take to the field at the Emirates on Saturday evening Villa will most likely have edged us into sixth position. The third city derby may not be a formality, but you would fancy them heavily against a Birmingham side already on their jollies. That would make their trip to Manchester as huge as Spurs' visit the following Wednesday, and they have players who can hurt us just as much.

More than that, what Villa will have is a deep-rooted desire to beat us based on more than just edging us for fourth place. The most obvious score to be settled would be by Richard Dunne, a fans favourite and regular Player of the Year winner whose forced exit didn't sit well with lots of Blues. On a pure footballing basis i thought it was best for all parties at the time, but how it was done wasn't right and although Dunnaldinho's early season brilliant form may have tailed off, he's still proved a canny acquisition by Martin O'Neill.

Richard Dunne, as he'd freely admit, is City through and through, and as a leader, off the pitch at least, was never anything less than a superb role model. On it he came back from the brink to give us at least three splendid seasons, and whilst his respect for our support has never been questioned, he'll have a message to send to the suits at Eastlands, and understandably so. The best way for him to do that would be to help his side to three vital points on May Day Weekend.

Another edge to the game has come to fruition this week in press reports linking Villa's current finest - winger-cum-midfielder James Milner, with a £20m+ move here in the summer. The truth behind such tales is debatable given that we don't know who our manager will be next season and the player in question would, on current form, walk into any side in the country. It could be the press simply playing games ahead of the run-in, but each season we're linked with a raft of players shortly before details of the following year's season tickets are announced, and Milner, along with Young, di Maria, Cardozo, Torres, well, it's fair to say they're all bums-on-seats sorts.

Beyond that, though, i wonder if people behind the scenes at the club are toying with Villa - leaking stories, true or false, in order to unsettle a rival. I wouldn't put it past them, and i'm not convinced it's a coincidence that the Manchester Evening News and Guardian were first to break the 'news'. I may be wrong, and Martin O'Neill is quick to point out that there's no real evidence to back those sort of thoughts up, but we really don't need to be giving a side as good as us, in a decent vein of form, and with more experience in these sort of end-of-campaign duels, any more excuse to come to town and end our season.


  1. City have a horrible run in, but Villa arent really that much of a threat. Wins in all their three last games will only see them to 70 points, which is a tally City can overtake even if they should lose to Villa. The problem with the run in though is that Arsenal have lost three in a row ( Two in the league ) and must be itching for a result and revenge against City for other reasons. ( That and they are usually pretty good at home, as oppoes to their away form.. ) Then City face Villa, which will be a tough game. If Villa beat Birmingham then they will still be theoretically in the race for CL, which is a bit troublesome for City since it will mean that they will need to beat them down and crush their CL hopes. Then theres Spurs.. A game Spurs can allow them selves to lose if City havent put up enough pressure by beating Arsenal and Villa.. Its all well up in the air at the moment, everything can happen !

  2. As a fan of your main rivals , now ( a Yid), may a commend you on the balanced nature of your article.
    Your mob have reminded me a lot of Liverpool last year...a lot of silly draws that really should have been vistories (particularly under Hughes - who I happen to rate) - although any self-respecting Spur will moan about the dropped points against Wolves, home and away, Stoke at the Lane etc. But, as we all know, it don't work that way.
    As for Villa, I feel that the predictions that their squad wasn't big enough caught up with them. I haven't been so impressed with them when they have to 'come-out' against teams, but when they sit deep and hit fast on the break they can be devastating. And that is just the type of gameplan I believe they will be able to pursue at Eastlands...with your mob going all out for the win. You may just have too much up front for them, but Dunne and Collins are the definition of dogged in defence.
    What makes it more intriguing is that now the 7th spot will qualify for the Europa Everton will be redoubling their efforts, so Villa could really do with the win, and will be looking over their shoulder, too. Don't want to worry you too much :-D

    May the best team win.

  3. A great read, free of vitriol and hyperbole. I share the mild anxiety about Villa's ability to spoil our respective CL parties. Whatever happens, it has been a great premiership campaign; full of slips and trips, not to mention some sparkling football along the way. Who'd have thought you lot would be cheering on Utd this weekend, while we root for the Gooners. May the best team claim the end-of-season spoils. COYS !!

  4. Very good read, I've been watching villa over the last two weeks and maybe there good run has come to late this weekends fixtures will give us a good indication as to were the 4th spot lies hopefully we'll turn Man Utd over this weekend Coys

  5. Could it be mind games from O'Neill?

  6. Very good article. As a Villa fan I like that we've kept it interesting, but i fear that we've left ourselves a bit too much to do. Assuming we win all out games, including away at City, we'd need Spurs to lose to Utd, yourselves. That would put us level. But as their gd is so superior to ours, we'd need them to slip up elsewhere. As their other 2 games are against Bolton (h) and Burnley (a) I can't see them failing to get at least 6 points.

    That means that, in my opinion, it will be one of Spurs or City that take it. If we can take it to the last game i'd be happy, it will have been a good season. Could have been a great decision had referees at wembley done their jobs rather than suck up to the 'big four', but there you go.

    As for who will claim it out of City and Spurs? tough one. It will probably be decided when you face each other. I'd maybe say City are miniscule favourites.

    PS - Milner and Young are going nowhere... But we have a lad called Heskey who is quality, and all yours for £20m ;)

  7. Don't worry about Villa - just think of how they were violated at Chelski. 7-1, what a lovely score.

  8. Excellent article mate,
    I feel that the Villa game will probably be ok for you, which leaves me unsettled as a Spurs fan to be going to Eastlands needing a result.
    We're so similar as clubs. We, like you, are always waiting for the kick in the teeth.
    I am pretty sure next season you'll be bang on for fourth, so I just hope that we get it this year to give us a moment in the sun.

  9. I agree, very well written article. I will echo view of previous comments.. All still wide open for 4th from the three mentioned (Liverpool may have a v. slight shout). I can see a lot of score draws happening over the next few games.. Nerves are going to be a BIG deciding factor!! As a Spurs fan we need to be going away to Burnley on the last game of the season only needing a point. Going to be very difficult away at Burnley with them already relegated by then (v. probably). I know a few Burnley fans and it will be PARTY time there, full ground, players 110% up for the last Prem game for possibly some years... This has been a great season and I congratulate all players and fans concerned!! I'm in Oz at the moment and the ManU match kicks off at 9.45pm on Sat night - cannot wait - COYS!!!

  10. Another Yid over in Hong Kong here - I guess we're all getting your article appear on newsnow.co.uk! Again, congrats on a good balanced analysis. I've watched more of other teams than usual this season - reckon McLeish's Birmingham may well surprise Villa, which would suit you... We'll all be out of our misery, either one way or the other in a few weeks, but all the sides involved have dropped silly points at various stages of the season, and it will be down to who can hold their nerve, and wants it the most. As Northern Spurs said - May the best team get their reward! COYS -

  11. City are not the only contenders. Villa and even Liverpool are both still in with a chance and I think the fixtures each team has yet to play makes it all a lot more even that at first it appears with a glance at the table.

    In my opinion, Spurs are just as likely to fail to win on the final day as any of the others, with an away day at Turf Moore.

    The only part of this article I'm not sure about, is which player in the Spurs side would be replacable with Milner! With a fit Lennon and Kranjcar, I think Milner would have a fight on his hands getting into the Spurs midfield! (Palacios, Huddlestone, Modric, Lennon, Krancjar and Bale already offers pretty enviable options for any side in the league, except perhaps Chelsea).

  12. well written but...

    villa have run out of games. brum aren't on their jollies, they are desparate to finish top-half. and it's always a bitterly fought derby.

    cmon joseph. sort em out.

  13. Good article... speak from a Villa perspective having seen our last two games in the league as a marked performance over our cup disappointments maybe just maybe we are hunting CL again albeit depends a lot on the results of others. I disagree with 'Northern Spur' and feel that now 7th is a Europa place we are all probably in Europe for next season one way or another. However I'm not sure we realistically want 4th place. We quite frankly don't have a good enough squad and neither do spurs but you guys have the funds to make the squad a new one if needed, although whether you ultimately deserve 4th place is another debate altogether... UTV.

  14. Villa Fan here. Good balanced post. Soo refreshing to read an honest post, unlike everything else being thrown about in the media. Just 2 points I'll like to say with regards to some of the comments made above. 1) Villa are 2 points away from confirming Europa qualification (assuming Everton win all their remaining games). So I disagree with the sentiment that Villa will be looking over their shoulders more. 2) Even if Villa win the second city derby and at eastlands, spurs just need to beat bolton and burnley and their goal-difference should make it 'almost' mathematically impossible for Villa to snatch 4th place away. Personally I hope Man City takes it, esp for honest fans like you.

  15. All I all... This season has been e best season by far... It's no longer e same old top 4. It's good to see other clubs finally pushing for e top 4. & like they say, e more e merrier. I believe next season wil definitely eclipse wat we have done dis season. May e best team win... Audere Est Facere!

  16. A very good read indeed!! as a spurs fan very excited by the next 2 fixtures especially and although optimistic I feel the game against city might prove a bit of a dudd. A win against the reds (granted it will be tough but boy do we owe them a beating) and a strong win against Bolton and its all over.. I can see city losing the next 2 fixtures. Spurs for CL spot and dont we deserve it.. Hopefully no dodgy pasta involved this time!!

  17. City have a hard run in fair enough. But tottenham HAD a harder one.

  18. Another Spurs fan impressed with this article. While I don't think Villa will be able to claim 4th (even if they win all their games, Spurs will only need 6 points), I think you're right to worry about your game with them. I wouldn't be surprised if they approached this match the same way as at The Lane - sit back and play for 0-0, while hoping to score on the break.
    Having said that, I reckon you'll beat Villa and lose to the filth, while we'll lose to United (and hopefully beat Bolton). Which means in theory it should come down to the City-Spurs match. However, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see whichever team comes out from that in pole position go and throw it away at either West Ham or Burnley. COYS!

  19. Two wins for Spurs in the last four means both Villa and Liverpool cannnot make 4th. A little side intrigue. Should there be a set of crazy results tomorrow with Spurs beating utd at Old Trafford and City beating Arsenal at Emirates - you will have Spurs 4 behind Arsenal with a game in hand. In my predictions awhile ago, I had Spurs down to lose to Man U and City to lose to Arsenal. I expect to City and Spurs to draw, just like Villa and City to draw.

  20. Good Article, its so nice to see a "rival" fan being honest and balanced. I agree with all the points you make. I believe City could get something at arsenal this weekend as they have lost some form. Saying that though, they are decent at home, I'd expect Van Persie to start and he will cause problems. Not to mention the return of Adebayor adding extra spice. I guess it all depends on which City turns up, we ask that same question about spurs every week. I also don't see any reason why we can't get something at old trafford, usually we don't win due to very suspect refereeing decisions which turn they game in the favour (especially in recent years). But we have to win there sometime and we've broken so many other records and bad runs this season, so why not add one or two more! Good luck for the rest of the season, the only team that gets 4th is the one that deserves it. May the best team win. COYS!

  21. Decent article, tainted slightly by a cheeky reference to '3rd city' derby. Behave! From a Villa perspective i think we'll miss out, but only by goal difference. Dunney, along with Milner have been our best player this season and there would be a lovely irony if we were to snatch 4th from you. If you didn't have Barry, i'd be more comfortable with you taking 4th as the legendary smugness of Spurs fans, as evidenced in some of the comments here, will make them unbearable. Just make sure you pack you own sandwiches on the last day, Spurs. The meals at the Burnley hotels can't be trusted.

  22. great balanced post. i'm a villa fan and we don't have enough games to clinch 4th but glad were still in the mix with 3 games to go.

    but it's good to see it's not the same old top 4, it's about time it changed and i am looking forward to the next few games.

    to spurs and city fans....all the best. may the best team win.

  23. Great balanced article, I am in agreement with most comments, as a Holtender I am pleased that we have at last not fallen away from 4th spot run in again as in the last two seasons. The fight and spirit the side has shown on the back of 2 lousy decisions at wembley has to be respected by all. However I think the fourth spot went away from us after the 2 Great results from Spurs against the other London 2, I expected dropped points in one of those to help us, and took great pleasure in particular the Chelski, and the sending off of break your England colleagues legs to try and secure your name on the bus Terry. It wil be close but this is my finished table
    1 Man Utd
    2 Chelski
    3 Arsenal
    4 Spurs
    5 Villa
    6 Man City
    7 Liverpool
    8 Everton

    It may suprise Villa 5th, but I think Spurs and ourselves are the form teams of late, and think City might just get the jitters, but also the talk of unrest by some, some not bothered wether they get 4th as there is talk of more big stars and may not be at the club next year, shouldnt effect them but you never know

    All in all who can complain, its been a great season and bring on the world cup to boot

    To the one comment about 7-1 enjoy while it lasts as most of your team is retireing soon and the Russian will not spend the money to replace them, also like all your fans dont forget the 2nd Divion and Full Members Cup wasn't that long ago

  24. "I wouldn't be surprised if Villa approached this match the same way as at The Lane - sit back and play for 0-0, while hoping to score on the break."

    That isn't true. We went into that game with a very attacking team. 2 wingers and 2 forwards. We just played awful! It was the same team that went to Old Trafford and deservedly won.

    Spurs fans seem to think how we played against them twice is how we play every week. It's not. We have played awful against Spurs twice but still picked up 2 draws.

    Picking up results when not playing well is supposed to be the sign of a good team.

  25. Third city derby? I thought Man City had played Man Utd twice already? We Villa have left it a bit late. One more win earlier in the season and I think we'd get there but we've only 3 games left now... Liverpool are out if it even more than we are which is funny to watch! I rekon Bing Crosby would be happy anyway. UTV!

  26. It aint over till the fat lady sings but if Villa some how claim CL spot boy will I party like we've won the league. Great read and definately greatest season so far both for title and top 4 places

  27. anonymous spurs fan- so you don't think that milner would get into a midfield with the choices of Palacios, Huddlestone, Modric, Lennon, Krancjar and Bale, when he can play anywhere in that midfield, sorry even though those players make a very gd midfield that is just biasedness to another level, i'd like to ask have u seen Milner play at all.
    Anyway back to Top 4, i hope that Spurs get fourth if we don't get it which is looking very much the case, I'd want Spurs to get it for the reason that if man city get it they will not fall back out of the top 4 because of the players they could sign and the money they have whereas with spurs they have more of a chance of slipping up next season giving us the chance to have another drive for fourth

  28. Very good read - and balanced responses too. Another Villan that appreciates the season we've had. "There or thereabouts" at the "business end" including 2 wembley trips. Whoever can hold their nerve now wins - no-one has been convincing. And if spurs can't find a place for Milner is it okay if we keep him then. Thanks in advance x