Fulham-Aston Villa Preview

TOM BENNETT (STATS European Football Writer)

The stakes are certainly high for Fulham on Saturday when they play Aston Villa at Villa Park since a loss will almost certainly condemn them to relegation from the Premier League.

Felix Magath's Fulham (7-3-22) have lost four of their last five league matches to find themselves bottom of the table and five points from safety with just six games remaining. However, the Cottagers' run-in is favourable, and Magath and his squad will be confident of repeating Roy Hodgson's 'great escape' of 2008 - provided they start by picking up a crucial win against Villa.

"I think that four wins are enough to stay in the league and, with six outstanding games, we are able to do that," said Magath in his pre-match press conference. "If you saw our game last week, we were very good at creating chances. We had a lot of chances against such a good team as Everton, and that shows me we can work just as well against Aston Villa, also. So I think we are prepared to play as well as we did last Sunday against Everton.

"They ran a lot in the last game, they ran more than Everton, so they are willing to fight against relegation."

Aston Villa (9-7-15) are not quite safe after consecutive 4-1 defeats, but worse news for the Midlands club is that star striker Christian Benteke is out with an Achilles injury for at least six months, ruling him out of the run-in, Belgium's World Cup campaign and also probably the start of next season.

"It's a terrible blow both for Christian and for the club," said manager Paul Lambert. "He will miss the rest of the season, obviously, and also the World Cup. But he'll work hard because that's what he does and he'll come back for us stronger than ever next season."

Aston Villa also have injury doubts over Karim El Ahmadi (hip) and are without Libor Kozak (broken leg), Jores Okore (knee) and Charles N'Zogbia (calf). Fulham have concerns over the fitness of Georgios Karagounis (knock), Dan Burn (knock), Konstantinos Mitroglou (knee), Scott Parker (knee) and Damien Duff (knee).

Villa have taken just one win from their last seven league meetings with Fulham - drawing four of those matches - and have scored just twice in their last five against the Cottagers.

Fulham have never done a top-flight double over Aston Villa and never won a Premier League match at Villa Park, losing seven times and drawing the other five times there while scoring just six goals in those 12 matches.

The London club recorded one of their seven wins in the reverse fixture on the banks of the Thames back in December. Steve Sidwell and Dimitar Berbatov scored first-half goals to secure a 2-0 win, and Fulham outshot their opponents 21-10 while holding Villa to just two shots on goal.

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