West Ham United v Aston Villa: match preview

You may have noticed Preview Percy's absence over the last week. We'd like to say we suspended him for some reason or another but by the time we thought of it he was back. Here's he explains why Match Of The Day might be worth watching this weekend and precisely what he has in common with Vladimir Coufal. Oh and some stuff about Villa...

Next up we play host to Aston Villa. European action means we are back to the Thursday-Sunday treadmill. Kick-off on Sunday is at 2pm with all the usual engineering works put in the way of your getting there. We have a weekend or two off coming up. Wonder if the trains will be running then?

So Villa then. There's been a change of manager since we last met – a 1-0 win at Villa Park giving us our first 3 points of the season back in August. Steven Gerrard managed to limp through until October before being dismissed. Unai "Dick" Emery arrived. Whilst they still haven't been what you might call setting the world alight, he's managed to stick enough green ink on the ledger to keep them in mid-table anonymity.

Since the World Cup break they have done ok having won five, drawn one and lost four since we were last told what a nice tolerant country Qatar is, though reports suggest that they've ridden their luck in some of those matches. Everton, for example, are trying to work out exactly how they lost 2-0 to Villa at Goodison Park. Having said that they have probably amasses sufficient points to keep them out of the mire unless anything spectacular happens – their 34 points from the 25 games played so far giving them a seven point cushion over Palace who have been pretty dire of late and are widely regarded as one of the nine teams involved in the relegation scramble.

Daisy informs me that they were reasonably quiet during the transfer window, with just the two signings coming on board. My beautiful assistant's research tells me that the fee paid to Real Betis for Moreno's services was something in the region of £13.2m give or take a Euro or three. Moreno plies his trade generally as a left back, though left wing-back or even out and out left wing appearances have been known. Having come up through the Barcelona youth ranks – albeit without troubling the first XI at any stage, his Catalonian credentials were enhanced by his appearing for the Catalonian "national" side last year, his debut coming in a 6-0 defeat of Jamaica last May. Catalonia are, of course, not recognised by FIFA, having yet to discover oil or ban homosexuality.

The other new arrival came in the form of Jhon (yes that is the correct spelling) Duran, who commanded a £14.75m fee from Chicago Fire, leaving Villa's former manager ruefully shaking his head as to what might have been had the club bought Colombian during his tenure. The fee has a potential to rise by another £3.3m with add-ons. From what I have seen of the player there is a fair degree of raw talent there but, at 19, he has yet to develop some of the more sensible decision-making skills that would push him up a level. One to watch however – particularly from the bench.

On the injury front this weekend they will be without Philipe Coutinho, the more than useful Brazilian who has some sort of muscular injury. Belgian midfielder Leon Dendoncker is also a doubt, recovering as he is from the after-effects of a "domestic accident", the details of which are sadly unspecified. Daisy tells me that the most common cause of injury in the home is from falling objects, though those she throws at me when I ask her for some particularly tricky bit of research are not believed to fall into this category.

There is a possibility of a return to the squad for Brazilian defender Diego Carlos whose calf has kept him out in recent weeks but French midfielder Boubacar Kamara will definitely be ruled out with an ankle problem.

On we move then to the wild and wacky world of Association Football. And the big news is of course the suspension of crisp salesman Gary Lineker from Match Of The Day until they sort out a policy on his use of social media. Ian Wright, Alan Shearer and others have all said that they won't appear and it has now been announced that there will be no punditry or analysis on this weekend's MOTD. Now irrespective of your opinions on what Lineker actually said there is one fact that is completely and utterly irrefutable. That is MOTD is about to get much, much better.

I surely can't be the only one who won't miss what often appears to be a job creation scheme for the ignorant (yes you Murphy and Jenas) and I will relish being able to sit through the highlights without having to shout "get on with it" every five minutes. If it's a success perhaps the BBC could introduce a special red button service for those who actually want their football coverage polluted by inane prattling, leaving the rest of us to simply watch the highlights. I won't even charge the BBC for the idea – though if someone would like to offer a discount off the licence fee, I may even get round to paying it.

The other thing I should point out this week is the superb tactical innovation introduced in midweek by Spurs, who, stunned the footballing world, by going all out to defend a 1-0 deficit in their so-called Champions League match against Milan in midweek. They pulled it off in spectacular style too – a second half sending-off resulting in the substitution of an attacking player by a defender, just in case they might accidentally progress. Well done Spurs!

On to us. Now the more observant of you will have noticed that I have been absent these isles over the past week or so, having had to make a trip to Ireland for what we shall call "family reasons". So I'd like to point out that my absence had nothing to do with my being unable to face writing about the complete abomination that was the visit to Brighton – a match I had also to miss for the same travel reasons. Having said that, I think everyone has had their say to the nth degree on just how awful it was down in Falmer, the one bright spot seeming to be that Conte clearly took on the tactical ideas arising from our decision to eschew any thoughts of actually trying to win the match into their European farewell. I shan't dwell on the point.

I'm going to move on to Larnaca then. A professional – if unspectacular performance which, with a bit more composure in front of goal, would have seen the tie completely put to bed already. Having said that, I wouldn't have thought there is much to worry about for the second leg. The game shows just how good Antonio can be when given yards of space to play in rather than having a Premier-class defender right up his backside all the time. Best bit of the trip was the return of the lesser-spotted Maxwell Cornet who, albeit against opposition of a lesser standard, at least showed some glimpses of the sort of creativity that we have been sadly missing for much of the season. The club have been very careful about reintroducing players too soon to first team action but sooner, rather than later, I would start to give Cornet starts – introducing him to matches we are chasing will serve little purpose in my opinion.

One little gripe from Thursday night would be our defending of corners. Now that may seem a bit churlish given we conceded hundreds of the things without actually conceding but all too often it seemed Aguerd and Areola were going for the same ball – something that had disastrous consequences up at Old Trafford the other week. There seemed to be a lot of discussion between the two after the match and it's hopefully something they can get sorted as it's something that other teams will have picked up on.

Injury news is that Fabianski – with whom there never seemed to be the same issue with Aguerd at corners, is going to be out for quite a while. Coufal, it has been revealed, is suffering from plantar fasciitis, one of the few things he and I have in common (apart from a mutual desire to kick certain opponents up in the air). It's a bloody painful condition I can tell you so he has my sympathy. As a clue to how bad it is there is an injection they can give you which, itself is so painful that they have to give you an anaesthetic before they administer it. Vlad's said to be available this weekend and will have my undoubted admiration should he make it.

Paqueta, Antonio and Downes all picked up injuries in Cyprus with Antonio's the likeliest to keep him out, though one would expect Ings to start against his former club – it's about time the so-called law of the ex worked in our favour for once.

Prediction? I'm going for a big change in attitude as a reaction to Brighton. Players have said a lot in the aftermath of that debacle and this will all depend on whether those words can be put into action. I'm banking on there still being enough anger about the place over the capitulation to make a difference. So with that in mind, the £2.50 that I would have paid towards keeping MOTD pundit-free for the future, will instead be placed on a home win. Make that one 2-1 to us please Mr Winstone.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at the Olympic Won 2-1 (Premier League March 2022)
A match that would have been notable mainly for the sheer quantity of blatant diving from the visitors – hardly unexpected given that Gerrard was in charge – but for our first goal. The finish from Yarmolenko in a packed box was superb anyway. However, this was the player's first appearance since the invasion of his homeland and the emotion of the moment was there for all to see with tears a plenty from the player. Fornals made it two 12 minutes later. Ramsey's 90th minute effort from the edge of the box as we failed to deal satisfactorily with a corner gave us a slightly less comfortable stoppage time than need have been the case but the resulting win was well-deserved.

Referee/VAR Chris Kavanagh/Michael Salisbury
Kavanagh is not averse to turning a blind-eye to shenanigans if it benefits a side in the top six. For example the penalty we should have had at Old Trafford in the league earlier this season. That may have been payback for the criticism he got for giving three correct but controversial decisions in our favour in an earlier match against Fulham. File under weak.

Danger Man: Ollie Watkins
Top scorer and his pace and mobility are the sorts of things we haven't been that good at dealing with this season.

Percy & Daisy's Poser-Type Thing

Last time we asked which of the following have Man Utd or those connected with them not been involved in over the years:

• Match fixing;
• Illegal share dealing;
• Bribery of council officials;
• Dubious tax avoidance.

Well done to Mrs Francesca Piltdown-Woman of Hockley who pointed out that this was in fact a trick question and in fact they have been involved in all of the above.

This week, in honour of Dendoncker's "domestic accident" we look at the world of unusual injuries and visit the strange world of former Villa striker Darius Vassell. Vassell woke up with a blood blister on his big toe and, in time-honoured Question Of Sport style, we ask you "what happened next?!"

Good luck everyone!

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