FOR more than 100 million Africans, including four of the continent’s best footballers and its fourth richest man, Aston Villa’s final battle tomorrow is a personal one.
Villa take on West Ham, at the London Stadium tomorrow, with their fate in their hands, given a victory will guarantee them another dance in the English Premiership, irrespective of what happens elsewhere.
A draw, or even a defeat, could see them survive but that would be dependent on results, elsewhere, going their way in games featuring Bournemouth, who take on Everton, and Watford, who battle Arsenal.
Villa have turned their season around, in the last three games, winning seven out of a possible nine points.
The Birmingham club’s battle for safety has attracted interest throughout the continent given Villa have four African players — Zimbabwe midfielder, Marvelous Nakamba, Egyptian internationals, Ahmed Elmohamady and Trezeguet, and Tanzanian forward Mbwana Samatta.
Trezeguet has been the star of the Villa campaign, in the past three games, with some decisive goals which has given his club hope.
One of the Villa owners, Nasser Onsi Sawiris, is the richest Egyptian, and the fourth-richest individual on the continent, with a net wealth of about US$7.6 billion.
With four African stars at Villa, it means the club’s progress has been followed by more than 100 million football fans from Egypt, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.
Egyptian wingback, Ahmed Elmohamady, will miss the match against the Hammers, who are already safe, after suffering a hamstring injury in the 1-0 win over Arsenal on Tuesday.
“Ahmed Elmohamady came off [against Arsenal] with a hamstring injury, so he won’t be fit for Sunday,” said Villa manager, Dean Smith.
“We control our own destiny and that’s what we wanted to have going into the last game.
“It was looking unlikely and that we’d have to rely on others, but results went our way in the week and we’re above the dotted line at the moment.
“The most important thing is to be above that dotted line on Sunday and we know we have to win to guarantee that. We’ll be going all-out to win.”
Villa are one of three clubs that could still follow Norwich through the relegation trap door after West Ham — whom they face on Sunday — banished that spectre by drawing at Manchester United on Wednesday night.
Smith’s men sit above Watford on goal difference, though Bournemouth could still pull off a miraculous final-day escape if they beat Everton and both Villa and the Hornets, who take on Arsenal, lose.
As long as Villa match the results of Watford and Bournemouth — who take on Arsenal and Everton respectively — they will avoid relegation to the Championship.
And Hammers manager, David Moyes, said he understood the tension in the Villa camp.
“I know how the manager there is feeling because I’ve felt it before,” he said when asked about Villa’s situation. “It’s incredibly stressful for the managers. There’s so much at stake and, thankfully for ourselves, we got ourselves out of it.’’
Whatever happens tomorrow, Villa could still be in for a bumper pay cheque.
Last year, each Premiership club received payments of £34 million in equal share, £43 million in international TV rights and £5 million in central commercial revenue.
Clubs were topped up with merit payments, ranging from £38 million to £2 million depending on final league position, and facility fees, from £33 million to £12 million depending on how many of their games were shown live in the UK.
Payments may differ this year due to the financial implications caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which halted the season for three months.
Prize money figures are yet to be confirmed, but with a new three-year TV rights cycle kicking in this season, the overall payout is expected to increase by more than £180million.
Domestic rights are understood to have dropped by £400 million over the course of the TV deal, but the sale of overseas rights has more than made up the shortfall.
International broadcasters will reportedly add £1.1 billion to the fund over the three-year cycle.
Allocation of the prize money has also changed. Until the 2018/19 campaign revenue from international broadcasters was distributed equally with each club netting over £43 million last season.
But Forbes report the increased income over the three-year cycle will be distributed based on a club’s finishing position in the league.
Central commercial revenues, which last year stood at just under £5 million, will be evenly shared and domestic TV cash — from Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon – will continue to be split into three strands as follows:
Equal Share — 50 per cent of the fund is equally shared between all clubs
Facility Fees — 25 per cent is allocated based on number of club’s matches broadcast in the UK
Merit Payments — 25 per cent is allocated based on league table position
Villa’s merit payment could deviate from around £4 million to £8 million, with the club still capable of finishing anywhere between 17th and 19th.
But beating the drop, and securing a second slice of the astronomical TV rights pie next season, remains the be all and end all for a club whose owners invested so heavily on players last summer.
Aston Villa have won two of their last three Premier League games (D1), as many as they had in their previous 15 in the competition (W2 D3 L10).
Aston Villa are looking to avoid being the tenth side to fail to record a clean sheet on the road in a Premier League campaign.
For the Villans, it would be the second occasion that they’ve not had a shutout away from home in a single season in the competition (also, 2010/11).
Trézéguet has scored three goals in his last three Premier League games, as many as he had in his previous 30 in the competition.
Aston Villa and West Ham have met on 111 occasions, dating back to their first game in 1913.
Villa have won 38 times, drawn 33 and lost 40 games against the Hammers.
“The mindset is to play with the same belief and confidence as we have done over the last few weeks,” said Smith — Sports Reporter/Birmingham Live.