Villa are still far from safe as the Premier League season reaches its final stages, with tomorrow's visit of fellow strugglers Queens Park Rangers now a huge match for both teams.
Aston Villa’s short-lived revival under Tim Sherwood might have given them renewed optimism about their Premier League survival chances but, with just seven games remaining, things are still very much in the balance.
The weekend’s 3-1 defeat at Manchester United means the club remain just three points above the drop zone in 16th-place going into Tuesday night’s home against Queens Park Rangers, when another loss would throw things back into crisis mode.
On the surface, their situation seems somewhat similar to Newcastle United’s during the 2008-09 season, when the perception that the Magpies were “too big a club to go down” was shattered on the final day after a 1-0 defeat at Villa Park.
Their squad certainly wasn’t that much weaker than the current Villa one, which, despite performing better in recent weeks since Sherwood’s arrival, has still done little to suggest that it’s anything more than mid-table-calibre at best.
Away from the distraction of an FA Cup semi-final, the final run could well end up being a nervy one for the claret and blues and, while supporters won’t like to think about it at this stage, a poor patch of form could well see them playing second-tier football come August for the first time since 1988.
For outside observers, there’s a certain morbid fascination over how a previously established top-flight side might cope with relegation, especially considering what’s happened to the likes of Leeds United and Portsmouth in the past, but I’d in fact suggest that Villa are better equipped than most to deal with the challenge.
Financially, the club is in a much better position after significantly downsizing both its spending and wage bill since the Martin O’Neill days and, while the likes of Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph would likely have to be sold on, some decent reinforcements could be brought in with the money recouped.
Villa’s status as a so-called “sleeping giant” would also be able to attract some elite Championship-level talent, while there are plenty of talented youngsters in their ranks who could thrive if given the opportunity to test themselves against the likes of Bolton Wanderers and Reading.
Gary Gardner, for one, is already thriving on loan at Nottingham Forest and others such as Jack Grealish, Callum Robinson, Janoi Donacien and Riccardo Calder could prove just as productive under the leadership of noted-youth enthusiast Sherwood.
Of course, no Villa fans want that scenario to unfold but it’s at least somewhat comforting to come to the realisation that relegation might not be a complete disaster.
Should they beat QPR on Tuesday then one more win might be enough to ensure safety - but lose and the prospect of the final day’s visit of Burnley being a survival showdown suddenly becomes much more of a reality.