Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard is calling for his side to push on from their surprise draw with Premier League champions Manchester City, as the Midlands outfit prepare to welcome Southampton this weekend.
The Villa Park team shocked expectations by taking a point against Pep Guardiola’s Citizens and the free-scoring goal machine that is Erling Haaland, ine one of the more hard-bitten results of Gerrard’s tenure yet.
An enforced break brought on by the death of HRH Queen Elizabeth II may well have checked their momentum, but ahead of the visit by Saints, former Rangers boss Gerrard says he hopes his side will be able to kick on after an otherwise ropey campaign to date.
“What we showed against City was that when we’re at our best, and our top players are close to their best form, we can compete against anyone in the league,” he said.
“We want to make it a turning point but just because you perform well against a high-quality opponent, it gives you no guarantees. You’ve got to go and put it in on the training ground, reset yourselves and then back that performance up.
“The onus is on us and the responsibility is on me to prepare the team to put in a good performance tomorrow against a different opponent.”
Opposite number Ralph Hasenhuttl meanwhile says his team will need to show bravery once again when they too make the trip in an out-of-sorts fashion to face Villa.
“They will want to light the atmosphere and therefore will come out wanting to be active,” he said. “We have shown in games this season that our young lads are very brave and do not care about the quality of the Premier League – they just want to show their qualities. We go there to show how good we can be.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Villa – Phillipe Coutinho
With no place in the Brazil squad – their last roll call before finalising the players who will head to Qatar 2022 – the Selecao star has plenty to prove in the next few weeks. He has been involved with more Premier League goals against Saints than any other side, with five finishes and two assists.
Southampton – Che Adams
The Scotland international has been an integral figure to Saints’ triumphs away from St Mary’s Stadium this season, and it is likely they will need his help again to succeed. He has scored four of their six road goals, including braces versus Leicester City and Cambridge United.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Aston Villa have won two of their last three Premier League games against Southampton (L1), having won just one of their previous 11 against them (D3 L7).
– Southampton lost this exact fixture 4-0 in March last season, ending a six-game unbeaten run against Aston Villa at Villa Park in the Premier League (W4 D2).
– Aston Villa have won just one of their last 10 Premier League games (D3 L6). Meanwhile, they’ve conceded in each of their last 11 Premier League matches, last having a longer run without a clean sheet in the competition between December 2012 and September 2013 (26 games).
– Southampton have alternated between victory and defeat in their last four Premier League games, with their two wins in this run more than they’d managed in their previous 14 beforehand (W1 D3 L10).
– Southampton have conceded the first goal in each of their last five Premier League games but have only gone on to lose twice (1-0 to both Man Utd and Wolves). They came from two goals down to draw with Leeds, before picking up 2-1 victories over Leicester and Chelsea.