Cottage bye!

Hodgson: faces tough task

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Fulham v Aston Villa
3.30pm, Sunday, Sky Sports 1

Fulham v Aston Villa
3.30pm, Sunday, Sky Sports 1

I'm sorry, but I can't offer any hope to Fulham fans - I simply haven't seen anything that makes me believe they can stay up this season.

In fact, I would put money on them going down with Derby and I would say there is only one relegation place left for the other teams to avoid.

They've only won twice all season, which is shocking, and when I saw them at home to Arsenal a couple of weeks ago it was like watching men against boys; I have rarely seen such a one-sided game in the Premier League.

They don't look threatening at all and in my view they are in a whole heap of trouble.

They have gone in front in matches plenty of times this season and it is quite remarkable the number of leads they have let slip. All fingers point to them not having a particularly good back-four and they are in such a rut at the moment that even if they take the lead, they don't seem to believe they can go on and win.

I'm not sure if Roy Hodgson will be able to turn those problems around quickly enough, even with the contacts he's got and the experience he has. He's signed a few players and he'll be desperately hoping they can make a difference at the back.

I think he's worried about the other end of the pitch as well and they have missed Brian McBride immensely. He led the line for them and scored a few goals and his injury has been a real blow to their hopes. Marlon King was touted as a potential replacement, but after problems with his medical they decided not to go for that either.

It was a shock appointment to give Hodgson the job and it is going to be extremely tough for him to turn things around.

Sneak in

Sunday's opponents Aston Villa are more concerned with the other end of the table and with the way Liverpool are stuttering at the moment there is half a chance that they could sneak into that fourth Champions League spot.

They have got a decent squad - as demonstrated by the fact Fabio Capello has called up five of them for England - and they added Wayne Routledge during the transfer window. I must admit I was surprised by that move and I thought Martin O'Neill would be looking at higher-quality players.

I saw Routledge playing for Crystal Palace against Southampton a few years ago and he absolutely destroyed Graeme Le Saux at St Mary's. He looked great at that point, but he never really did it at Spurs or indeed at Fulham when he was on loan there.

So I was surprised Villa have taken the plunge because they are already quite strong in wide areas with the likes of Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor doing well for them.

O'Neill has clearly spotted something that he can work on in Routledge and with big John Carew up front he will be keen to make sure they get plenty of balls into the box.

Another big transfer story at Villa this week was Olof Mellberg confirming he is joining Juventus at the end of the season. Hopefully that won't affect the way he plays for Villa and he should have enough professional pride to keep working hard for O'Neill.

I'm sure he will keep his performance level up and he'll keep doing the business because O'Neill will not tolerate anything less. I'm sure Villa fans will be disappointed he is leaving because he's been a very solid performer and he will be fondly remembered.

Curtis Davies will be expected to fill his shoes and I was surprised to see him named in the England squad. He has done okay for Villa this year, but I feel there is still improvement to come.

He has plenty of good attributes for a defender and I can see him getting better and stronger at Villa over the years; Capello clearly thinks that is the case.

Le Tiss Predicts

AWAY WIN - I simply can't tip Fulham after what I've seen from them this season, so I'm going to say Villa will win this. Martin O'Neill's side will nick a narrow 1-0 win in this one.

Matt's Main Man

GARETH BARRY - I would have gone for Ashley Young because he is playing so well at the moment, but he is banned for this match, so I'm opting for Barry instead. The Villa skipper has been having an excellent season and has been pivotal in his team's climb up the table.