Tim Sherwood will take charge of Aston Villa for the first time on Saturday afternoon when Stoke City visit the West Midlands, and Paul Merson has told Sky Sports that his former Portsmouth teammate will make a winning start to his reign.
Villa plunged into the relegation zone for the first time this season following last week’s 2-0 defeat at Hull, with a dismal run of two wins in 21 Premier League games leading to the departure of the beleaguered Paul Lambert.
On a run of five straight top-flight defeats, the incoming Sherwood now has 13 fixtures left to keep the club from the drop, with the visit of Mark Hughes’ side posing the first test of his survival credentials.
Stoke are coming off two consecutive 4-1 defeats to Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup, respectively, but the Potters are 11 points above their weekend opponents in the table in 10th-place and pushing for a top-half finish.
Nevertheless, Villa managed to eke out a 1-0 when the two sides met at the Britannia Stadium on the opening day of the season, and Merson believes that, with Sherwood on board, another narrow win is on cards for the claret and blues.
“It’s Tim Sherwood’s first game in charge and I’ve got a good feeling for Villa,” he wrote in his predictions column. “I don’t usually go against Stoke but I know what Tim’s like. He’s infectious and he’ll get them going.
“With the game being at Villa Park, that will help and the atmosphere will be excellent. It’s been quite empty in recent weeks but I think it’ll be packed out for this and that will help the team.
“I’m going for 2-1 Villa and, as I mentioned, it’s very rare for me to against the Potters.”