Palace v Villa stats: Why El Ahmadi could be key this weekend
Tony Pulis has certainly reinvigorated Crystal Palace and they look on course to beat the drop this season.
Much of that has been down to the fact that the Welshman's meticulous defensive organisation has been taken on board by the Palace backline, but despite a convincing win at the weekend, their inability to convert chances remains a concern.
Despite carving out more opportunities of late, Villa's hosts this weekend are still the league's lowest scorers (23), with a 6.2% chance conversion rate also the worst in the top-flight.
That's a considerable drop from Lambert's side's 9.1%, with the Villans registering 35 times this season and in each of their last five league games.
While it seems likely that things will be tight at either end it may well be the case that the battle in the middle ground proves crucial.
With Villa missing the likes of Fabian Delph and Karim El Ahmadi against Fulham, they now have both back available for the trip to Selhurst Park.
While the former has taken the plaudits this season, and rightly so, the influence of the Moroccan has perhaps gone a little unjustly under the radar.
With the combative midfielder having to be withdrawn early on in the match against Stoke, the team have certainly missed his energetic input.
The 29-year old has done a lot of the dirty work that often goes unnoticed, with only seven regular starters averaging more tackles per game in the Barclays Premier League this season (3.4).
Furthermore, of all players to have made more than 20 appearances in the top-flight, only two have dispossessed an opposing player more often (every 21.2 minutes) in the current campaign.
It's these workmanlike performances that have allowed the likes of Delph - and Ashley Westwood - to focus more of their energies on the attacking aspects of their respective games this season - and both have profited in turn.
While much of El Ahmadi's work is defensive, that allows those around him to venture forward and it's no coincidence that Villa have scored more than twice as many goals per game with the midfielder in the starting XI (1.32) than without him (0.6).
His impact on results has been equally impressive.
Indeed, eight of Villa's nine wins this season have come in the 22 league games that El Ahmadi has been on the pitch from kick-off.
Villa have, in turn, averaged 1.32 points per game with the former Feyenoord man in the XI compared to 0.5 in the 10 league matches that he hasn't started this season.
It's clear that Villa will be delighted to have the 29-year old, along with a number of key players, back available when they visit Palace.
However, if the away side are to win the tussle in the midfield area, El Ahmadi may well be the key man.
Find yet more statistics on Villa and the rest of the Premier League, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings at WhoScored.com. Follow @WhoScored and their editor-in-chief @martinlaurence7 on Twitter.
Go to full match coverage for Crystal Palace 1 - 0 Aston Villa (11th April 2014) >
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