Paul Lambert: Aston Villa have got to defend better


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The Independent Football

Aston Villa and West Ham both need to reverse recent form as the Claret-and-Blues go hammer and tongs in Birmingham today.

West Ham have had a poor run away, dipping into the bottom half of the table after sitting sixth in November. Since then they have lost seven out of eight away games, a run broken only by a goalless draw at West Bromwich Albion. But with Andy Carroll back as the focal point of the attack they looked better in beating Swansea at Upton Park last Saturday, when Carroll scored the only goal.

Villa's problem has been the opposite, with creditable away performances not matched at home. Although beaten by lower-division sides Bradford City and Millwall in cup competitions, their full-strength League side have drawn at Swansea, West Bromwich and Everton this year. At Villa Park, however, nerves seem to affect a young team, who have not won in front of their own supporters for five League games.

They have continued to give away goals from set-pieces and West Ham will hope to use Carroll's strength in the air to exploit that. Villa's manager, Paul Lambert, who admits they will need to win five or six of the 13 games left to avoid a first relegation in 25 years, said of his defence: "You can't lay blame and say it's your midfield or defence who have made mistakes. The second goal we let in at Everton was soft. We're a threat, there's no doubt about it. Going forward we can create, but we have got to defend better."

His opposite number, Sam Allardyce, said of West Ham's form: "We are Jekyll and Hyde, there's no doubt about it. It niggles me that we can't quite find the same type of form away from home that we've been producing all season at home."

Aston Villa v West Ham is on Sky Sports 1 today, kick-off 1.30pm