West Ham United-Aston Villa Preview
By TOM BENNETT
STATS European Football Writer
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - Aston Villa will be looking to move out of the relegation zone as they welcome West Ham United to Villa Park on Sunday afternoon.
Paul Lambert's Villa (4-9-12) have lost only two of their last five games and are just two points from safety - despite winning only four games all season - and centre-back Ciaran Clark is confident his team can avoid the drop.
"We've shown we can do it against good teams, so we just need to back it up with results between now and the end of the season and we believe we can," Clark said. "On the training pitch we've been working hard and that will hopefully equate to greater consistency over the latter part of the season. The core belief within the team and the squad has not waned. In fact, the belief is there now more than ever.
"West Ham will be a tough game, of course. They're doing well this season and they got one over on us on the opening day. But we just have to concentrate on our own performances and we have plenty to keep them focused on our attacking players."
Sunday's visitors West Ham (8-6-11) recorded a 1-0 win over Swansea last weekend - only their second victory in 10 games - and January signing Joe Cole is hopeful the result will spark his team to move up into the top half of the table.
"I think Saturday has given us a lift," said Cole in an interview with the club's official website. "30 points is a big barrier to get to and now we're all looking up. The next game is Aston Villa - we want to improve our away form and it's important that we get a result there.
"In every game there's pressure and it's so difficult to win in this league - every team gives you different kinds of problems," added the insightful Cole. "It really is competitive at the moment and we'll just be taking every game as it comes."
Aston Villa are without Stilyan Petrov (Leukaemia), Chris Herd (ankle), Marc Albrighton (ankle), Richard Dunne (groin) and Gary Gardner (knee), while Fabien Delph (ankle) and Joe Bennett (knock) are doubtful. West Ham have doubts over Guy Demel (knock) and Daniel Potts (concussion), but James Collins (hamstring) and George McCartney (knee) are out.
Sunday's hosts Villa have taken just three points from their last eight league matches, being outscored 25-8 in those games, and have lost four straight matches at Villa Park without scoring a goal. No team in the Premier League has picked up fewer points at home than Villa's 10 from 12 this season.
West Ham have just one point from their last seven away matches, and have just eight on the road overall. Their tally of seven goals away from their own ground is the lowest in the division, and the Hammers have conceded 11 in their last three away games.
West Ham won 1-0 when these teams met on the opening day of the season, with Kevin Nolan scoring in the 40th minute. Villa had more possession in the game, but only managed two shots on target.
Updated February 8, 2013