Aston Villa-Watford Preview
Gabby Agbonlahor will be available again for Aston Villa on Saturday when they face Watford at Vicarage Road.
Agbonlahor has been serving a club-imposed suspension at relegated Aston Villa (3-7-25) due to a series of off-field incidents and a lack of physical conditioning. However the player released a statement on his official Instagram account Thursday, apologising to the supporters and resigning as club captain.
"I want to begin with an apology to all Aston Villa fans for my actions in recent weeks, especially at a time when it is devastating for everyone involved with the club," Agbonlahor said. "I am stepping down as club captain with immediate effect as I do not deserve to carry out such a role anymore. This role was a huge honour to me and it hurts to have lost it.
"I am asking Aston Villa fans for forgiveness as I'm hurting as well despite reports and photos in the press making out otherwise. I agree my performances this season have not been good enough but I will be working hard to make things right."
Another dubious mark in a season of prolonged misery could be reached Saturday as a Villa defeat would be their 11th on the bounce, equaling a club record set in 1962-63. The Villans are also winless on the road in 16 matches (0-3-13) since opening the season with a 1-0 victory at Bournemouth.
They've dropped five straight outside Villa Park, getting outscored 10-1 in those matches.
Watford (11-8-15) have little to play for but pride, having secured safety in the Premier League for the first time in three promoted seasons in club history. Quique Sanchez Flores' are firmly ensconced in mid-table, but crashed out of the FA Cup with last weekend's 2-1 semifinal defeat to Crystal Palace at Wembley.
The Hornets' dip in form - they've taken just 13 points from their last 17 matches - has prompted speculation that Flores will be removed from his post in the summer. The manager has already confirmed he will hold talks with the board at the end of the season, and there have been rumours Valencia are interested in the Spaniard, who had coached the team previously from 2005-07 and reached the Champions League quarterfinals there.
However, forward Troy Deeney has insisted the players aren't switching off and instead are hoping to mimic Leicester City by finishing one campaign strongly as a springboard into the next.
"We've got four games left and we need to finish as strong as we can, not just for ourselves, but I think the fans deserve a strong finish," said Deeney, who pulled Watford level in the second half versus Palace. "You saw what can happen with Leicester and the way they finished last year and it rolled on, so we need to do that. If you let this season dwindle away, next season it'll be very difficult.
"It's just a case of making sure we keep grafting and finish the season strongly. We've had a great season. If you take a step back we've reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup, we're staying up in the Premier League. ... We've had a lot of plaudits this year, for the right reasons, so we've got to make sure we finish on a high and be positive with what we have achieved."
Watford are without Etienne Capoue, who has a knee injury. Villa may have Agbonlahor back, but Keiron Richardson and Jordan Amavi are out and Ciaran Clark is a doubt.
Watford hung on for a 3-2 road victory in the reverse fixture as an own goal by Villans defender Alan Hutton snapped a 1-1 tie on 69 minutes. Deeney added a needed insurance goal as Jordan Ayew pulled one back late for Aston Villa.