Aston Villa-Hull City Preview
For all the talk of moral victories, both Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert and Hull City counterpart Steve Bruce know an actual one would go a long way towards avoiding relegation as the teams meet Tuesday at KC Stadium.
Both teams are perilously close to the drop, with Villa (5-7-12) 16th on 22 points and Hull (4-8-12) in 17th place, out of the bottom three only due to a better goal differential over newcomer Burnley. Since the turn of the calendar year, Hull City's 2-0 victory over Everton on New Year's Day is the only win between the teams in 10 combined matches, and the two sides have totalled four goals in those 900 minutes of league action.
Lambert's team finally ended a scoring drought that reached a staggering 11 hours - the fourth-longest scoreless spell in the Premier League era - but Jores Okore's goal in the 48th minute wasn't enough for Villa as they conceded to Branislav Ivanovic on 66 minutes in a 2-1 home defeat to table-topping Chelsea on Saturday.
''I have mixed emotions, I thought we were excellent and undeservedly lost the game,'' Lambert said. ''The equalizer was deserved, Carles (Gil) does fantastic on the byline and at that moment I thought it looked as if the team could go and win. We had been creating chances before that and not taking them.''
While Villa have finally broken the duck at home for scoring goals, they have lost four on the bounce and are winless in their last nine (0-3-6). Additionally, Lambert's side also has dropped four in a row on the road via shutout and have not scored there in 418 minutes after Christian Benteke's goal in the 32nd minute provided a 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace on Dec. 2.
Okore's marker was just the 12th for Villa in league play - they need nine in the final 14 matches to avoid matching the Premier League record for fewest goals, established by Derby County with 20 in the 2007-08 season.
Hull suffered heartbreak against Manchester City at Etihad Stadium on Saturday as James Milner's goal in stoppage time secured a 1-1 draw for the defending Premier League champions. David Meyler put the visitors ahead on 35 minutes, and the Tigers may have felt they were free and clear after Sergio Aguero rapped the crossbar in the 89th minute, only to see Milner curl a free kick from the edge of the penalty area past Allan McGregor.
"It's a shame and cruel on us that we conceded right at the end as I felt we had done enough to win the match," Bruce said. "The performance for me was the most important thing, and we showed enough resilience to show that we deserve to stay in this division."
Hull's recent efforts at KC Stadium have not shown that resiliency - they have just four points from their last seven matches there (1-1-5). Two of the three goals scored in those matches came in the win over Everton.
By Villa's standards, they had an offensive explosion in the reverse fixture by claiming a 2-1 victory. Andreas Weimann set up Gabriel Agbonlahor in the 14th minute before netting himself in the 36th. Nikica Jelavic pulled one back on 74 minutes for Hull, who could not find the equaliser.
Villa has been Hull's bogey team in the top flight, claiming just one point in seven previous matches while being outscored 12-2 on aggregate. The Villans have not conceded a goal in three Premier League matches at KC Stadium, winning two.