Hull City-Aston Villa Preview

RYAN WILLOX (STATS Football Writer)
The Associated Press

Come the final whistle on Saturday either Hull City or Aston Villa will almost certainly have secured Premier League football for next season.

The other could be in a world of trouble, such are the fine margins in this most competitive of English top-light seasons.

At first glance Villa look secure, three points out of the relegation zone in th place and with a game in hand on three of the four teams beneath them.

The picture is blurred, however when Villa's remaining trips to Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur are taken into consideration.

Manager Paul Lambert has gone on the offensive over the Villa's transfer strategy as a frugal summer spending policy has again resulted in the club battling at the wrong end of the division.

Villa (9-8-18) have been liked with moves for Manchester United forward Javier Hernandez, City defender Joleon Lescott and Tottenham midfielder Lewis Holtby, currently on loan at Fulham.

"I think a football club of this size needs that caliber of player," Lambert said in his pre-match press conference. "I'm not just talking about those three lads because it would be wrong for me to talk about them but we need that level of player for the size of this club, wherever they come from.

"This club needs big players. It's not acceptable for this club to keep doing this - it's been four years of battling against relegation."

Hull City, 13th on 37 points, recovered from two down to draw 2-2 with Fulham away last time out and ease their relegation fears.

Ireland international Shane Long snatched the equalizer three minutes from time after Nikica Jelavic had sparked the recovery.

"It was a massive point for us," Long told the official club website. "It keeps Fulham six points behind us and they only have two games left and have a worse goal difference. We can at least look at them as finishing behind us.

"The big thing on Saturday was not to let Fulham get three points as that would have made it a bit more nervy. I think we can go to Aston Villa next weekend quietly confident that we're fairly safe."

The Tigers (10-7-18) will need to overturn a bit of history to get a result. Villa have won the first four Premier League meetings between the sides by a combined 7-0.Hull City have never scored a goal against Aston Villa in a Premier League match, being shut out over 450 minutes.

Villa will be without long-term injuries Christian Benteke (ankle) and Libor Kozak (leg) and have doubts over Joe Bennett (ankle) but defender Jores Okore may be available after returning to training.

The Tigers will be without 'keeper Allan McGregor (kidney), Robbie Brady (Groin), Paul McShane (Ankle) and Joe Dudgeon (Knee).

Villa are winless in their last six Premier League matches, taking just a solitary point since early March, a scoreless draw with Southampton.

Hull has won just one of their last five Premier League matches, drawing once and losing three times in that stretch. The lone as a 1-0 over Swansea City in early April.These sides played out a scoreless draw in early October at the KC Stadium. The clubs last met at Villa Park in Dec.09 and the home side secured a 3-0 win through goals from Richard Dunne, James Milner and John Carew.

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