Crystal Palace-Aston Villa Preview
Every time it can't possibly get worse for Aston Villa, they go plumbing the depths to find a new low.
Their season of misery continues with a return to league play Tuesday when they host a Crystal Palace side eager to build on their FA Cup victory.
Languishing at the foot of the table and 11 points adrift from safety, Villa's woes continued in the FA Cup. The Midlands side were forced into a replay after being held to a 1-1 road draw against Wycombe of League Two on Saturday, with Micah Richards' first-half goal canceled out by Joe Jacobson's conversion from the penalty spot early in the second.
The frustration has reached a tipping point among the fan base, with Richards - Villa's captain - engaged in conversation with the traveling fans who fumed following a result that forced a return match in two weeks' time at Villa Park.
"We have to accept this criticism because we're not winning these kind of games," manager Remi Garde told the team's official website. "I understand that the fans could be angry about this result. We have to accept that as players, as a manager. Everybody involved with this football club has to accept that we're criticised at the moment because we're not winning."
Aston Villa (1-5-14) have not tasted victory of any sort since a 1-0 triumph over Birmingham City in the League Cup on Sept. 22, going winless in 16 matches (0-5-11) across all competitions. In league play, it's even worse sledding - a club-record 19 matches (0-5-14) since opening the season with a 1-0 victory at Bournemouth.
Richards left the match late due to injury, and Garde was unsure if his talisman would be available for this contest. Jack Grealish's status is also a concern after he missed Saturday's game due to tonsillitis that sidelined him from practice most of the past week.
Crystal Palace (9-4-7) had gone three matches in league play without a goal before breaking through for a 2-1 victory at Southampton on Saturday in the FA Cup, the second straight year they've escorted the Saints from the tournament at St Mary's. Joel Ward and Wilfried Zaha netted for the Eagles, with Zaha cashing home the winner in the 68th minute. Goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey preserved the victory with key saves late, most notably a bending free kick from James Ward-Prowse deep in injury time.
"I think we performed really well, they had a fast start and caused us some problems in the first half but defensively I felt we coped with it very well, stayed in the game and took our chance when it came," said Ward to the team's official website. "It's always nice to score a goal and thankfully I was in the right place at the right time and kept cool and slotted it in."
Palace - who are seventh on 31 points but five out of a Champions League spot - now set out to end a 272-minute scoreless drought in league play dating back to Chung-Young Lee's 88th-minute winner in a 2-1 triumph at Stoke City on Dec. 19. Alan Pardew's men have been formidable on the road, taking 17 of a possible 27 points (5-2-2) outside Selhurst Park thus far.
The manager was quite pleased with his team's effort Saturday and sang their praises post-match.
"This is what this team is about," he beamed. "We're difficult to score against with a good back four and goalkeeper. We can kill teams on the break. We have a great resilience. You look at our record of teams scoring on an equaliser, we go on to win more than we lose."
Palace took the reverse fixture 2-1 on Aug. 22, with Bakary Sako netting the winner three minutes from time after Palace defender Pape Souare's own goal in the 77th minute canceled out Scott Dann's marker six minutes prior.
The teams played to a scoreless draw in last season's corresponding match.