Three consecutive losses have given Aston Villa a chilly start to the winter months. The Villa fans are desperate for their team to improve their performances and avoid the rough winter they experienced last year.
This time last season Villa were in the early stages of a long struggle that saw them embarrassingly beaten in the League Cup by Bradford City as they plummeted down the Premier League table.
In order to avoid suffering a similar fate this year, Paul Lambert must carefully select his team for Thursday's match against Crystal Palace to get his side back on track.
Injuries to key players will limit Lambert's options, but after a long losing streak and facing a freshly promoted side anything less than a win will be a huge setback for Villa and put the pressure on Lambert.
Here is how Aston Villa should lineup to beat Palace on Boxing Day.
Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan
Brad Guzan has been a consistent performer and a great leader since cementing himself as the club's shot-stopper. The American keeper is virtually guaranteed to start in goal on Thursday. Guzan has conceded seven goals in Villa's past three defeats and Guzan will feel that he can do better against Palace.
Right-Back: Matthew Lowton
After being relegated to sporadic appearances as a substitute, Matthew Lowton has started Villa's last pair of matches in place of Leandro Bacuna. Lowton has failed to reproduce the excellent form he was in last season, but he is still the club's best right-back. He is an eager contributor who has the ability to start many quick attacks and can put in a dangerous cross.
Centre-Back: Chris Herd
With Nathan Baker struggling, Chris Herd has an opportunity to prove his worth to the team. Injuries have kept the Australian from being a regular contributor in defence, but when he has played Herd has often impressed with his determination and tackling. Herd is inexperienced and sometimes rash, but the absence of skipper Ron Vlaar leaves Lambert with few choices. A second consecutive start for Herd is the manager's best option.
Centre-Back: Ciaran Clark
At times this season Ciaran Clark has looked tremendously confident and capable at leading a strong defence. Those instances, however, have not come consistently enough and Clark has been culpable for several defensive errors this season. He must be at his no-nonsense best as he partners the less-experienced Herd on Thursday.
Left-Back: Antonio Luna
Despite being fit, Antonio Luna was left on the bench for the first time this Premier League season in the loss to Stoke. Luna was exposed in Villa's previous match against Manchester United and it is unsurprising that he was benched as a result. Nonetheless, Luna is the club's only healthy left-back and he must start against Palace. When Luna does not play Villa struggle to create down the left and the team must hope that the Spaniard's defensive performance can justify his inclusion.
Centre Midfielder: Fabian Delph
Villa's most consistent player this season, Delph is a crucial part of Lambert's team. Delph is Villa's most mobile player in midfield and his bursting runs create empty space for his teammates to fill, often leading to goalscoring opportunities. Delph's confidence in possession is unmatched among his teammates and he will be a key contributor on Boxing Day.
Centre Midfielder: Leandro Bacuna
Bacuna is a versatile player who has spent the majority of his time at Villa Park playing at right-back. With Ashley Westwood suspended and Karim El Ahmadi looking jaded there is an excellent opportunity for the Dutchman to return to the midfield. A strong player with a deadly free kick, Bacuna can provide a passing outlet to his forwards while retaining physicality in the centre of the pitch.
Centre Midfielder: Yacouba Sylla
Often times this season Yacouba Sylla has found himself as the odd man out in the Villa midfield. A strong tackler and energetic player, Sylla's poor passing and decision-making has seen him left on the bench more often than not. Against Palace, however, Sylla can complement his more technically rounded peers with a combative performance.
Right-Winger: Marc Albrighton
Seemingly disliked by his manager, Marc Albrighton has been injured or out of favour for the past season and a half. Albrighton was given a rare start in Villa's loss to Manchester United and his strong performance was the clear standout among the claret and blue players. His combination of crossing, trickery and shooting are uncommon among Villa's players and his play on the right wing will be crucial.
Left-Winger: Gabriel Agbonlahor
As has been the case for much of his career, it has been an up and down year for Gabby Agbonlahor. The forward missed the match against Stoke with yet another minor injury, but his presence was sorely missed. Aleksandar Tonev has failed to impress and with Christian Benteke unfit it will fall on Agbonlahor to help create and score goals.
Striker: Libor Kozak
Kozak, the scorer of Villa's lone goal against Stoke, will be keen to get on the score sheet again. Benteke's absence gives the Czech striker an opportunity to star as Villa's main man up front, a chance he will be eager to take. Kozak's power and size will test the Palace defence.