Villa’s miserable March will continue into April
Few people believed Aston Villa's dream start to the season would last but nobody could have predicted it would go so terribly wrong for them within the space of one month.
Martin O'Neill's small squad was badly exposed throughout March as they managed just one point out of a possible twelve and their last performance, a 5-0 drubbing at Anfield, looks like the final nail in the coffin for their Champions League ambitions.
And there doesn't seem to be any relenting from the misery as they face a daunting trip to Old Trafford on Sunday in the knowledge that Man Utd are desperate to put their own March woes behind them.
United have seen their lead at the top of the Premier League disappear after losses to Liverpool and Fulham in the past two games, and there is a feeling that a big performance is required to get their season back on track.
However, with Wayne Rooney, Nemanja Vidic and Paul Scholes all suspended, Sir Alex would no doubt be delighted with three points no matter how they came.
The Red Devils are 4/9 shots to win the match with Villa priced at 8/1 and the draw 14/5 but, given the Villans' recent form and past record at Old Trafford, there only looks to be value in a home win.
In fact it is 25 years since Villa last walked away from the Theatre of Dreams with three points and they haven't even managed a draw in the past six visits. Hardly numbers to inspire an already downbeat squad.
What's more O'Neill has to contend with a real striker crisis with Emile Heskey having been injured on international duty while Gabriel Agbonlahor is desperately struggling for form.
It all makes the 4/7 about United keeping a clean sheet look a safe bet while picking out a potential scorer for Villa almost seems to be futile, although John Carew should get the nod up front so he appears most likely at 11/4 to bag a goal.
Someone who hasn't had problems finding the net in this fixture is Cristiano Ronaldo who has managed five goals in the last six encounters between the sides and, despite him going through a lean spell recently, he looks reasonably priced at 7/2 to notch the first of the game.
I wouldn't get too carried away with United's chances though as they haven't shown enough to suggest a big score is on the way but I still fancy seeing some daylight between the sides at the end of the day.
You can get 9/2 about a 2-0 United win and that would be where my money goes, although 1-0 at 11/2 would be more than enough to put a smile on Fergie's face - perhaps he might even be willing to talk to the press.
It is almost heart breaking for Villa fans who thought this was their year to finally get back into the big time but, with a threadbare squad, the end of the season couldn't come sooner for O'Neill and co.
And who knows, maybe next year will be different but, as far as this game is concerned, Villa may have to make way for United to leapfrog Liverpool.