Villa's first game of the post-Tim Sherwood era sees them travel to St Mary's to face Ronald Koeman's men in the fourth round of the Capital One Cup on Wednesday night.
Aston Villa will have caretaker boss Kevin MacDonald in charge on Wednesday night when they face Southampton in the fourth round of the Capital One Cup at St Mary’s, but Sky Sports pundit Charlie Nicholas cannot see the fan favourite coach inspiring his struggling side to a win.
Saturday’s 2-1 home loss to Swansea City left Villa bottom of the Premier League with just four points from 10 games following a run of six straight top-flight defeats, as manager Tim Sherwood was unsurprisingly shown his marching orders the next morning.
Youth coach MacDonald now takes temporary charge of a team that has gone without a league win since beating Bournemouth 1-0 on the opening day, with his first task being to orchestrate an upset victory on the South Coast.
It remains to be seen whether he will also be on the touchline for Monday’s trip to Tottenham Hotspur, as the club’s alleged pursuit of former Lyon boss Remi Garde reportedly hangs in the balance, but while the squad are now playing for their futures, Nicholas thinks the Saints will be too strong on the night.
Writing in his Sky Sports column, the former Arsenal and Celtic forward predicts that the hosts will opt against going with a weakened line-up and, as a result, progress to the last eight with a comfortable 3-0 win.
“The crazy thing is I think most players liked Tim Sherwood, particularly those in the team,” writes Nicholas. “Those players are now playing for their futures and most will be only interested in themselves and, whoever comes in, be it Remi Garde or whoever, they need to show that they have picked up their game and deserve to stay in the side.
“However, unfortunately for them, I think Southampton will go with a strong side as Ronald Koeman is a man who takes the other competitions seriously and why not?
“You can chop and change a couple but why rotate too much when you're in a real good position to maybe go on and make a cup final.
“For that reason I'm expecting Southampton to go through and do so quite comfortably.”
It was just eight months ago that Villa had their last caretaker manager in charge following Paul Lambert’s sacking, when Andy Marshall led the club to a 2-1 FA Cup fifth round home win over Leicester City, but MacDonald has also stepped into the role in the past after Martin O’Neill’s sudden departure in August 2010.
The Scot, who at the time had been working with the club’s academy for 15 years, only managed to guide the team to two wins in eight games but there was still strong support for him to get the job on a permanent basis before Gerard Houllier’s appointment the next month.
After leaving Villa following Lambert’s arrival in June 2012, the ex-Leicester City midfielder went on to have a brief spell managing Swindon Town and a stint working at Nottingham Forest last season, before eventually returning to the Midlands outfit in February as part of Sherwood’s new coaching staff.
While an extremely popular figure at the club, he will likely not been considered for the full-time role, regardless of results, but he certainly has a chance to further endear himself to the claret and blue faithful in the meantime with one or two vital wins.