Forgotten Lichaj needed for Villa to gain vital Sunderland victory
Given that Eric Lichaj has not played for Aston Villa since the FA Cup defeat at Millwall in January and has a contract that expires this summer, it is fair to say that his future at the club looks bleak.
Offering the American full-back a new deal is the least of Villa’s concerns at present as they battle for Premier League survival, but Lichaj should still have a massive role to play in this quest.
Having been a regular earlier in the season, most notably as a left-wing back, Lichaj now seems to be third choice on that side behind Joe Bennett and Nathan Baker.
Bennett is certainly the best of the three going forward, but arguably the worst from a defensive standpoint, while Baker is a natural centre back. Although he has played at left-back this season at times, it is far from his natural position.
Sunderland at home comes next for Villa and is the crunchiest of crunch games and a true definition of a relegation six pointer.
It’s borderline as simple as Sunderland leave with three points and they are safe, if Villa fail to win they will be odds-on for the drop.
Sunderland are much improved since the arrival of Paolo Di Canio and it has been the Italian’s ability to get more from attacking threats Stephane Sessegnon and Adam Johnson that has been particularly noticeable.
This may tempt Paul Lambert to go slightly more defensive with his midfield selections in the hope of nullifying Sessegnon, while Lichaj has to be the best equipped at keeping Johnson quiet.
Being left-footed and stationed on the right side, Johnson doesn’t need a second invitation to cut inside when in possession and this is debatably his main play, in the same way as Arjen Robben.
With Lichaj as a right-footed left-back, it would make sense to position him against Johnson.
Villa are 6/5 to beat Sunderland and they clearly need the victory more, but with seven of the last eight involving these two seeing no more than two goals scored, the safer money may be on under 2.5 goals at 4/5.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.