BLACKBURN, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11: Yakubu of Blackburn Rovers celebrates with team mates after scoring the first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Blackburn Rovers and Queens Park Rangers at Ewood park on February 11, 2012 in Blackburn, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Blackburn and Aston Villa will square off at Ewood park tomorrow afternoon. I've known this for months, but for some reason it just kind of clicked today; tomorrow, I will wake up early in the morning, log into an account for which money is actually paid and spend two hours of what is supposed to be a rare beautiful early-spring day in Seattle watching Aston Villa and Blackburn. Usually when people talk about the irrational nature of sports fandom, they're speaking in terms of hope, emotional reactions and the like; to me, the fact that I will watch Blackburn-Villa in its entirety is much more compelling evidence. There's a good chance of this being the least entertaining game of the Premier League season and hundreds of thousands of people will watch it.
The mind boggles. And perhaps the most depressing fact about the almost certain drabness of this game is the fact that Villa are the more boring team of these two; that was the case coming in, and I can't imagine the loss of Darren Bent really helping the cause. Lots of noise has been made about Andreas Weimann being given the opportunity to start while Bent is out, but I'm assuming Alex McLeish will start Emile Heskey so long as doing so would not be considered grounds for immediate forced institutionalization. The terrifying possibility also exists that both Weimann and Heskey will start, with one of Charles N'Zogbia and Marc Albrighton being shown the bench (anyone care to guess which one?) with Ivanhoe playing out wide. There's a decent chance Villa will run out not only a boring team but an actively terrible one, and if sitting through two hours of this game isn't bad enough then surely sitting through two hours of this game to see Villa lose to a team in the increasingly-too-close-for-comfort relegation zone would do the trick.
Fortunately, I don't expect Villa to lose. But I do expect them to draw, because that's what I always expect them to do. And that's pretty close to being just as bad. There's not a game Villa will play the rest of the way that's more winnable than this, and it's not as though they're in a position to leave points on the table. A win or two would go a long, long way towards all but guaranteeing safety, and Villa's next three games (Blackburn tomorrow, at home against Fulham and Bolton) are plausibly winnable. After that, it gets very, very dicey the rest of the way. It's perfectly reasonable to think that Villa will pick up a surprising result in a few of those, but after the game against Bolton there isn't another on the schedule in which Villa would be considered the favorites (as of now) until the season's final day against Norwich City. In other words, there's still a lot of season left but that doesn't mean Villa look a decent bet to put the bottom three in the rear-view mirror if they don't take care of business over the course of the next few weeks.
That's got to start tomorrow. This club has somehow put themselves in a position where a game against Blackburn the first weekend of March is must-win. And shockingly, I don't think they can even be considered favorites to do so. When you look at the teams involved, there's no compelling reason to believe Villa are any better than Rovers. That's shocking, appalling and more than a little bit terrifying. What in god's name has happened to this club? And could it please stop happening sometime soon? It's beyond embarrassing. Three points tomorrow could go a long way to help get the needle moving back in the right direction.