It’s crunch time for Aston Villa as they gear up for the biggest game of their season on Saturday.
The huge six-pointer against Reading will go some way to deciding their fate come the end of this miserable Premier League term.
If they can win at the Madejski Stadium, or more importantly avoid defeat, the aim of avoiding relegation will still be in sight.
However, should Villa lose, it’s hard to see where the points are going to come from to keep them in the division.
Time is running out for Paul Lambert’s men to save their season – just ten games remain.
And Villa have struggled throughout this campaign in high-pressure games.
Since the turn of the year they’ve won just one home league game and crucially lost to relegation rivals Wigan and Southampton.
There was also the Capital One Cup collapse against Bradford City in the semi-final and the inability to hold on to a two-goal lead against rivals West Bromwich Albion in the final Midlands derby of the season.
When Villa desperately need to win, they seem to buckle, but it has to change.
A positive result on Saturday will lift them out of the drop zone as Wigan, who currently sit in 17th above Villa on goal difference, have a weekend off.
The incentives are there staring the claret and blues in the face, it’s just how they cope with the pressure.
Lambert will be forced into making at least one change as in-form Fabian Delph is suspended.
The midfielder picked up his tenth booking of the season in the 90th minute of the defeat against Manchester City on Monday.
It means he will miss the trip to Reading and the important clash with QPR at Villa Park a week later.
Lambert admits it is a blow as the ex-Leeds United man has been Villa’s best player for the past two home games.
Delph has always been known as a tough tackler but his latest caution was harshly received for handball.
He believes that referees have gone soft and feels that he may have to change his game to avoid further cautions.
“Ten yellow cards does look bad,” Delph conceded, “but I like to be competitive and there are a lot of players who play that way.
“I think it is a dying breed now.
“Football is a lot more technical and a bit more sensible.
“Referees have got a bit soft and it’s something I’ll look to curb.”
The Bradford-born player even thinks that tackling is a dying art.
“It’s got a bit boring hasn’t it?’’ he added.
“No-one is allowed to kick anyone these days.
“I was probably worse when I was at Leeds.
“It’s something I’ll look at and something I have looked at before.
“I don’t think I make as many ‘guess’ challenges as I have done in the past. I pick and choose when I go to ground now.
“The gaffer loves that competitive side in all of his players and I think I make fair challenges. I can mistime some of them. I am only human.
“But I honestly don’t think I deserve a lot of the yellow cards I’ve picked up this season.
“If I’m being totally honest it’s my tenth booking, I think I deserve three.
“The game has changed and I’ve got to change.” Meanwhile, Lambert hopes captain Ron Vlaar is fit for the trip.