The Villa Appetiser: Villa v Preston 2016

After three consecutive defeats, a return to winning ways is needed.

Solid home form is the only thing preventing us from a major slide down the table. That being said, despite being unbeaten, in terms of points, Villa’s home form is only the eighth best in the league. Outside play-off form.

Villa will take on 9th placed Preston, led by Simon Grayson, who made 48 Premier League appearances for Villa. North End’s 2-0 victory over Villa earlier in the season was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Di Matteo’s short managerial reign.

Two founding members of the original Football League meet again, and it’s the first time these sides have faced each other at Villa Park since 2002.

Lansbury has finally signed which has created some optimism, but can we get back to winning ways?

Steve Bruce on Henri Lansbury

“He is a good player and he can get around in midfield and chip in with goals, we need that and he fills the gap.

“He is somebody I have known since he was a boy, he is something a bit different and can score a goal.

“He is creative and has the ability to score and we need to improve on that.

“We have a very good player and I am delighted we have got him.”

Lansbury on Joining Villa

“The shackles will be off and I will be 100% focused in every single game. I want to show that on the pitch. I can’t wait for the first game – I can’t wait to show all of this.

“Coming into work and being a professional footballer, there’s nothing better. You should never forget that. It’s a great job.

“I will be myself here. I know some of the lads already. I am just a happy-go-lucky character and I hope to bring my positivity to the place.

“I relish the challenge. We want to be back where we belong. 10 points in this league is nothing. You go on a run of results and win games on the bounce and you’re back in the mix.

“I am sure we will be fighting for it at the end of the season.”

Simon Grayson on Villa

“I had a good spell there at Villa Park, I think it was a successful time for the club, we were up there in the Premier League for large parts, we were in Europe and got to the quarter-final of the UEFA Cup and other big games.

“So it’s a great football club, with tradition and history, it’s an iconic stadium, so it just shows you what can happen in football.

A top team like that are now in the Championship and we are going head to head with them.

“We are looking forward to it, obviously we have a few players who are going back there too who will be looking forward to it but ultimately like at every ground we go to this season it’s one we want to get three points at.

“They are unbeaten at home so the Villa faithful will be looking for another three points to push them towards the Play-Offs and hopefully get to the Premier League but we know their strengths and weaknesses, and hopefully we can capitalise on that and be the first to go there and inflict a defeat on them.”

In their last eight league away games, preston have lost just once .

Memory Match

4th December 2002 Villa 5 Preston 0

Vassell, Dublin, Angel and Hitzlsperger got the goals when we last played Preston at Villa Park – then in the League cup.

Villa – Last five matches at home: W 4, D 1

Preston – Last five matches away: W 3, D 1, L 1

One to Watch

Callum Robinson – the ex-Villa forward is Preston’s top scorer this season.

 

Facts to Sweep Under the Carpet

It was almost inevitable that Lambert would win against his former employers, and an unfortunate moment of goalkeeping gifted a goal in an otherwise dull game. It was a shame for Johnstone on his league debut, and the performance (yet again televised!) re-enforced our need for squad additions and some kind of plan.

Good thing then, that Lansbury has been signed ready for this weekend’s game, and we could see both new players make Villa Park debuts. But what about some of Villa’s old players?

According to a BBC journalist, Grayson claims there are some at Villa Park who are scratching their heads over the decision to let Daniel Johnson and Robinson leave.

Of course hindsight is a wonderful thing, and Villa were more concerned with Premier League survival when the two players departed. But their recent performances do make you wish they were playing a part in Villa’s play-off push, rather than Preston’s.

Preston have quietly gone about their business this season and sitting in ninth place, they can be realistic in eyeing the play-off positions.

In addition to playing well against Arsenal in a recent cup tie, their away form is everything ours isn’t! In their last eight league away games, they’ve lost just once.

We’re still unbeaten at Villa Park, but there’s something ominous about this weekend’s game.

“we know their strengths and weaknesses, and hopefully we can capitalise on that and be the first to go there and inflict a defeat on them.” – grayson on villa

Why Villa Have Got This Game in the Bag

With a run of recent defeats it’s easy to be negative about our current form. But let’s not be too quick to forget the past year or so.

Our general form is poor at the moment, but it’s worth remembering that we’ve won four of our last five home games, and have been hit by Kodjia’s absence.

It’s been a while since we last had such intimidating form at home. The last time we remained unbeaten in our first 12 home games was in the 70’s! So clearly we’re not all that bad…

Lansbury does look to be the missing piece of the puzzle for Bruce, and he should at least offer some movement, and help the team create more.

With more signings on the horizon and a difficult away trip to Brentford up next (now that the Bristol City home game has been rescheduled) it’s time to make a statement.

The play-off places are 10 points away, but it’s worth echoing Lansbury’s thoughts – 10 points in this league is nothing!

UTV.

Follow Lewis on Twitter – @rymondfootball

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