By Kris Woodward
After a week of uncertainty surrounding Bolton Wanderers Football Club, Aston Villa’s good Friday fixture will go ahead. The tie had been in doubt due to a feared strike from match-day staff, over unpaid wages.
Of course the situation at Bolton is devastating on a football level and as Villa fans can sympathise, a fan base should never have to face such uncertainty of their club’s future.
From Aston Villa’s point of view, this fixture being postponed would not have been welcomed. Villa are in an unbelievable run of form, hitting eight wins in a row for the first time in over 40 years.
Villa will want to keep this momentum going with ties against 23rdplace Bolton and 20thplaced Millwall, this weekend.
After concentrating on play-off rivals: Bristol City, Derby County and Middlesbrough, Villa (69 points) now find themselves equal distance between West Bromwich Albion in 4th (73 points), to Bristol City in 6th (65 points).
Whilst leap frogging our rivals and claiming 4thspot would a fantastic end to this amazing run, the prize for finishing 4th is the same as 5th. Albeit having the second leg of the semi-final at Villa Park.
Despite Villa not beating West Brom this season, a play-off tie against the Baggies is probably more preferable than one against Leeds United or Sheffield United, which is why finishing in either 4thor 5th is important.
Ultimately, the semi-final will be a harder proposition for Villa than the play-off final at Wembley, which they’ll fancy against any team in the play-offs.
Could Villa secure a play-off place this weekend?
It would be difficult for Villa to secure a play-off place this weekend, Villa would need to better Middlesbrough results over both games in order to see off their threat.
With Middlesbrough five points away, two wins for Villa and Middlesbrough dropping points in either of their games would do it.
With Middlesbrough facing Stoke and Nottingham Forest, dropping points wouldn’t be an unlikely scenario for them.
Derby County are the only other team that could mathematically catch Villa and with a game in hand, their chances seem more likely than that of Boro, despite having one less point.
Villa would need to win both games and Derby to lose theirs to ward off any threat.
This would mean Birmingham City doing Villa a favour in Friday’s fixture, with Derby facing both the Blues and QPR this weekend. Although it’s hard to see QPR pulling off a result with their patchy form, despite a 4-0 win against Swansea in their last game.
It’s unlikely that Villa will secure a play-off place mathematically this weekend, as they would need several fixtures to go their way as well as seeing off Bolton and Millwall to take their winning streak to 10.
Whilst this weekend might be too soon, a play-off place is looking more and more likely. The important thing now is for Dean Smith to manage his squad, in terms of John McGinn’s yellow card situation, various injury niggles and to give game time to squad players who may be needed in the play-off tussles ahead.