LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 25: Samba Diakite of Queen Park Rangers tackles Clint Dempsey of Fulham during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Fulham at Loftus Road on February 25, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
For whatever reason, the doom and gloom fears of relegation have pretty much faded from my mind at this point. I'm still not entirely comfortable mind you, but looking at the teams below them in the table and the schedule the rest of the way, it's just incredibly unlikely. Obviously, that's a good thing. Villa playing in the Championship is not something I really want to see. But given that Villa just need to stay the course in order to avoid becoming mired in the relegation battle means all of the things I hate about the way they've been playing aren't going to lessen anytime soon. Despite this game taking place at home, Fulham is a dangerous team; Alex McLeish probably realizes that, and he also probably realizes that a draw would probably be a decent enough result from this game to give Villa a little extra breathing room. That's going to be the case a lot from here on out, I'm afraid. And I'm not really looking forward to it.
The most annoying thing about all of this is that playing for the draw probably isn't the worst idea. If this game ends even, no other team can pull any closer than within seven points, with two teams more than a two-game swing between Villa and the drop. That's better than six, right? And with just nine games left to play it's tough to think that three teams could make up that kind of gap. Fulham are a dangerous team; Clint Dempsey is in the form of his life and Bryan Ruiz has given them a level of creativity that has taken their attack to another level. I'll trust you've all seen Aston Villa play defense, so in that case I won't need to tell you that the prospect of facing a team with a quick, clever winger linking up with a big, physical, skillful striker is not exactly thrilling. And though the Cottagers don't have an elite defense (they've actually allowed one more goal than Villa this season) it's not exactly what you'd call poor either. It's not that Fulham's unbeatable, but choosing to play it safe is at least somewhat defensible.
Not that I'm hoping for that. It's just what I'm expecting, and it's annoying as hell that if it turns out that way I won't be able to get all that upset about it. Finishing in the top half is probably off the table at this point, and that means safety is really the only remaining goal. I'm just resigned to it at this point.
I think I'm ready for the offseason.