Aston Villa v Burnley - Match preview

Steven Gerrard claims Ollie Watkins is learning to be kinder to himself – and it’s paying off for Villa.

Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins
Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins

Watkins is on course to be the club’s top scorer for the second season running and though his tally of 11 is currently three fewer than his final total last term, the striker has netted six times in his last 12 appearances including three in the last four.

Boss Gerrard, who last week dismissed outright the suggestion the 26-year-old could depart Villa Park this summer, believes he has at times been too critical of his performances when things aren’t going right.

“I think Ollie’s not being as harsh on himself as he was when we first came in,” he said. “He’s someone who’s his own worst critic and I think he’s being kinder to himself. Ollie’s at his best when he when he goes and be free, not overthinking things, he’s been a pleasure to work with and there’s more to come.

“He’s very humble, too humble. Sometimes he can over analyse, and I could be like that myself, I was my own worst critic – that’s the best way to be as a player. But we have to remind Ollie to praise himself from time to time. Sometimes he’s unplayable. Sometimes he doesn’t realise how good he is.”

Watkins is thought to be a target for West Ham this summer but Gerrard sees him as a big part of his plans at Villa.

“He’s got all the attributes to be a top player at this level, he’s been great for Villa and the exciting part is that there’s more to come,” he said. “If we take this where we want to take it, then Ollie Watkins will play a big part.”

Gerrard, meanwhile, admits to being acutely aware of the spotlight on his team as they prepare to finish the season with two matches which will have a big impact at both ends of the table.

First comes tonight’s visit of a Burnley team who need a positive result to move out of the relegation zone, before attentions turn to Sunday’s trip to Manchester City, where the hosts need victory to seal the title.

“We are very much aware of it,” said Gerrard. “But no-one needs to worry about what we are going to do. We are going to go out and be the best version of us. We will commit to both games and do whatever we can because we want the points. We want to finish in a better place than we are in right now.

“Firstly, we want to leave our home supporters in a good place. If we do we go into the weekend feeling good about ourselves. Our consistency at home hasn’t been good enough. It is something we are desperate to address.”

Goalkeeper Emi Martinez is being assessed after picking up a knock in training yesterday morning. Sweden international Robin Olsen is primed for his first appearance since arriving on loan from Roma in January, should Villa’s No.1 not make it.

Calum Chambers will replace Ezri Konsa, while Kortney Hause and Leon Bailey are not expected to feature again this season.

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