LONDON • When Aston Villa beat Bournemouth 1-0 on the opening day of the Premier League season, few would have foreseen that the Villans could be relegated in the reverse fixture.
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe certainly did not.
"A lot has happened since that day," he said ahead of today's meeting between the two teams at Villa Park. "I didn't think then they would be a team who'd get relegated. They looked like they had good individual players."
Yet, Villa managed just two more league wins after Aug 8. They sacked as many managers this season in Tim Sherwood and Remi Garde.
The changes have not prevented the club from standing on the brink of unwanted history.
One of seven teams to have never been relegated from the Premier League, they could today be subjected to the second-fastest drop in terms of games played (33) since the competition was whittled down to 20 teams two decades ago.
Derby sealed their fate after 32 games in the 2007-08 season, when they had a record-low 11 points.
Villa - 15 points from safety following seven straight losses - need to beat Bournemouth to stave off their drop to the second-tier Championship. Not even a draw would be enough if Norwich City win away at Crystal Palace today.
"The potential of relegation didn't come about yesterday, it's been going on for a long while," admitted interim manager Eric Black.
"We need to put in a performance for our supporters who pay a lot of money to come and watch us play."
Villa will be without the suspended Alan Hutton, while Gabriel Agbonlahor - suspended by Villa last weekend after he was pictured holding a shisha pipe while on holiday - is a doubt. But striker Libor Kozak, defender Ciaran Clark, winger Adama Traore and midfielder Jack Grealish are back in contention.
ASTON VILLA V BOURNEMOUTH
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