Moment of truth for Nakamba. . . as EPL status hangs in the balance  

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ZIMBABWE international Marvelous Nakamba and his Aston Villa teammates go into tomorrow’s English Premier League match at West Ham fully aware there is no room for error.
Villa’s stay in the top flight is under threat going into the final game of the 2019-20 season and could end in tears for Nakamba and his teammates if they falter at the London stadium.
Villa did themselves a huge favour by beating Arsenal 1-0 on Tuesday night to move out of the relegation zone.
Dean Smith’s men now sit just one place above the drop zone in 17th place with 34 points, the same as Watford, who are in 18th place.
For Villa to secure their top flight status for next season, they need to better whatever result Watford achieve away to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
What makes the situation very complex is the fact that the two teams’ goal difference is also very much similar as Villa are on -26 while Watford are on -27.
This means that Nakamba’s team can win tomorrow against the Hammers but  still find themselves getting relegated in the event that Watford beat Arsenal by more goals.
In the event that Villa fall short, it will be a disappointing end to Nakamba’s maiden season in the English top flight.
The Zimbabwe international signed for Villa from Belgian side Club Brugge shortly after the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt.
During the first half of the season, Nakamba was a regular feature in Smith’s starting XI and earned a number of rave reviews.
However, ever since the league took a break in March due to the coronavirus (Covid-19), Nakamba’s form and confidence have taken a serious knock.
Of late, the Hwange-born midfielder has had to contend with a place on the bench while coming on as a second half substitute in most matches.
Although Villa’s top flight status is in their own hands, Smith is not prepared to take any risks by looking to rely on others doing his side a favour.
On the final day permutations, Dean Smith said: “It means we control our own destiny and that’s what we wanted to have going into the last game.
“It was looking unlikely a few weeks ago but we won games and other results went our way so we’ve ended up above the dotted line at the moment.
“But the most important thing is to be above that dotted line after Sunday’s games. Our entire focus will be on trying to beat West Ham, we will be going all out to win.
“We can’t think about other matches because we are not in control of them but we will be mindful come the last 10, 15 minutes because it can change the game.”
After nine matches in a hectic five-week period, Aston Villa’s Premier League status comes down to just one game.
Smith has readily classed the post-lockdown fixtures as ‘‘tournament football’’ — something his side have been adept at over the past 12 months.
“We’ve been good in the cup competitions, getting to the League Cup final and winning the play-off final last season,” Smith added.
“So we’ve got some knowledge and feeling of how it is going to be on Sunday but we still have to be mindful of other games as well and we have a few What If scenarios in our minds to react to.”
Villa will however, be without defender Ahmed Elmohamady for tomorrow’s game after the Egyptian suffered a hamstring injury in the win over Arsenal.

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