Big Injuries, Loan Returns and Dean Smith’s Need for Defensive Improvement, as QPR Eye Villa Double

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After the disappointing draw at Preston, the Orjan Nyland injury news has added to the Villa wounded, although it hasn’t been ‘officially’ confirmed at the time of writing.

Another match in quick succession is on the horizon in the form of QPR, a team we’ve struggled against in recent encounters.

Good news, then, that we have looked to address our defender shortage with the recall of Tommy Elphick, who could slot straight back into the team for Tuesday’s game.

Jed Steer has also been recalled from Charlton, so could also start.

Another big crowd is anticipated at Villa Park.

Can we begin 2019 with three points?

Form

VILLA

9th in the league table with the 14th best home record.

Last five matches at home: W 2, D 2, L 1   

QPR

8th in the league table with the 13th best away record.

Last five matches away: W 1, D 2, L 2   

Dean Smith on QPR

“We need to be better on the ball against QPR.

“In the second half at Preston, we didn’t pass it anywhere near well enough. It enabled them to attack us quickly and create chances.

“We need to make sure we don’t do it on New Year’s Day. I expect they won’t press us quite as much, but we still need to be wary.

“Defensively, we have to get better. We’ve got players coming back, including Tommy Elphick, and we’ll be looking in the market as of Tuesday, too.”

Steve McClaren on Squad Changes

“It took us a while to adjust to the changes we made with Luongo being away, but once we did that we pressed, we caused them problems and but for a great save and the crossbar we’d have won the game.

“But the lads keep surprising me, they keep coming back, they keep going.

“Just when you think they look down and like we’re going to crack, we get back up and go again. That relentlessness is what we need to keep as that spirit can take you a long way.

“We look forward to [the Villa game]. We’ll need the squad; we’ve only got two days to recover but we’ll go again.”

Memory Match

13th March 2018 – Villa 1 QPR 3

Villa’s hopes of the automatic places suffered a blow as QPR sprung a surprise win at Villa Park, just days after we’d defeated leaders Wolves 4-1!

Player to Watch

Toni Leistner – the German defender has been a standout player for QPR this season

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TAMMY ABRAHAM HAS SCORED IN EACH OF HIS LAST FOUR LEAGUE APPEARANCES AT VILLA PARK, SCORING SEVEN GOALS

Facts to Sweep Under the Carpet

Think of QPR and you’ll no doubt recall the game last season at Villa Park.

They also inflicted an away day defeat early on in Dean Smith’s reign, beating Villa 1-0 despite a largely dominant display from the team in claret and blue.

QPR deserve a lot of credit. They’ve enjoyed a good start to the season under Steve McClaren, despite their recent Financial Fair Play issues.

They’re one place ahead of us meaning it’s almost like a mid-season ‘play-off’ match, with the chance to move closer to the top six.

We’ll have to do it without Nyland though, and with Kalinic not quite eligible yet, it will be either Mark Bunn – who last played in the infamous Preston home draw – or Jed Steer between the sticks.

Both will rejoin a Villa side that have conceded at least two goals in their last four home matches, QPR have kept a clean sheet in their last three games.

QPR’s away form is inconsistent, but it shows their recent improvement. They’ve won four of their last nine away league matches (D2 L3), which is as many as they’d won in their previous 36 games on their travels.

McClaren has switched between victory and defeat in each of his last five league visits to Villa Park (W2 L3). The last was a 1-0 loss in 2017 with Derby, a game that ended a poor run of form for Villa. Does that mean he’s due a win in B6?

You have to go back to February 1987 for the last time QPR beat Villa in back-to-back league visits, but they’ll certainly be confident as 2019 begins.

“IN THE SECOND HALF AT PRESTON, WE DIDN’T PASS IT ANYWHERE NEAR WELL ENOUGH” – SMITH ON VILLA

Why Villa Have Got This Game in the Bag

Villa looked quite tired against Preston on Saturday, and you have to imagine there will be some changes ahead of Tuesday’s game.

The likes of Bjarnason, Adomah and Kodjia will likely see more action against QPR, while Elphick could also make an immediate return.

Elphick, who impressed while on loan at Hull City, could be well-suited to Dean Smith’s Villa. It will at least mean we should no longer have to continue with a back four consisting of three right-backs.

Like Villa, QPR have absences to contend with. They’ll be without key midfielder Luongo thanks to international duty, while Angel Rangel and Geoff Cameron will also miss the game.

Despite inconsistent recent form, we’re still difficult to beat, and are unbeaten in 9 of our last 10 matches.

As well as that, Villa have scored at least two goals in the last five home matches. If Elphick can help shore up the defence, we could record an overdue home win.

The history books also present an encouraging stat. Villa are unbeaten in their last eight league matches on New Year’s Day (winning five, and drawing three) since losing 0-1 to Chelsea in 2001.

Let’s hope we can celebrate the New Year with a win.

Happy New Year!

UTV.

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