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Aston Villa vs. Tottenham Hotspur Preview: The race is on

Spurs have everything to play for with eight matches remaining.

Tottenham Hotspur v Aston Villa - Premier League Photo by Eddie Keogh/Getty Images

It has been quite some time since things felt like this. A dominant win over Newcastle made it five wins out of six in the league with three coming by at least four goals, proving that Antonio Conte has completely imposed his beliefs on this team. Couple in Arsenal’s failure against Palace on Monday and suddenly Tottenham Hotspur just about controls its own destiny.

With eight matches to go, the club has to take things one week at a time from here on out, as there is very little breathing room in the race for fourth place. Supporters, however, have the freedom to look ahead, and that path shows four tricky, but winnable fixtures before a massive week against Liverpool and Arsenal.

The journey continues against Aston Villa this Saturday. Spurs have to be feeling confident given last weekend’s pair of results and has a great opportunity against the slumping home side. Conte’s squad has found its rhythm and now is not the time to slow down. Another match, same mantra: bring home three points.

Aston Villa (11th, 36pts) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (t-4th, 54pts)

Date: Saturday, April 9
Time: 12:30 pm ET, 5:30 pm UK
Location: Villa Park, Birmingham, England
TV: NBC (USA), Sky Sports Main Event (UK)

Villa has dropped three straight in a tough stretch against West Ham, Arsenal, and Wolves. The defense did its part by holding all three opponents to under 1.5 xGA, while the attack only netted two total goals. Despite all of the recent goal-scoring, there are questions revolving around Spurs’ ability to break down a structured defense. Still, it is really hard to bet against this front three right now (and really the 8+ bodies that are seemingly involved every attack).

The drubbing of Newcastle was yet another textbook Conte performance, particularly in the second half. The match was Tottenham’s third straight effort of at least 2.4 xG without allowing more than 0.7 xGA, numbers which completely match the eye test. All levels of the squad are rolling, most notably the involvement of the wingbacks, and the harmony between the players is exquisite.

The beauty of the recent results is how deserved they feel. Spurs are generating plenty of chances and consistently find themselves in dangerous areas. The counterattacks between Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son, and Dejan Kulusevski have been artwork, and while there is some opportunity to grow in generating chances from sustained possession, these three just continue to get better by the week since Kulusevski’s arrival.

Three themes

  1. Much has changed from the first meeting between the two clubs, where Spurs nabbed a 2-1 win to reverse three consecutive embarrassments in September. A 71st-minute Villa own goal restored Tottenham’s lead after conceding minutes prior, while the opener came from unlikely source Pierre-Emile-Hojbjerg.
  2. With the current form of the squad, though, one has to wonder if there even is such thing as an unlikely scorer anymore. Matt Doherty has been heavily involved in multiple goals, Emerson Royal even found the back of the net, and the central midfielders and left backs are plenty dangerous as well. Meanwhile, Cristian Romero seems to be consistently featured in the attack despite not missing a beat defending his own net.
  3. Screw it, fully leaning into rival watch. Arsenal play right before Spurs against freefalling Brighton and should be able to bounce back, but hopefully not making up any ground in goal difference. Chelsea does have a match in hand but is only five points up on Tottenham right now, so it is at least worth monitoring for the time being. The Blues travel to Southampton Saturday.