The Villa Appetiser: Aston Villa v Rotherham United 2016

It wouldn’t be a proper season nowadays for Villa if they didn’t have at least one cup upset. While it wasn’t quite as bad as the Bradford games, it served as a reminder that the issues of seasons gone by, still remain.

The Sheffield Wednesday game saw Villa give a half-decent account of themselves, and Wednesday’s team for the cup saw a much-changed lineup. The first home game, then, should give a better idea of how the season might pan out.

As one of last season’s relegation battlers Rotherham looks to be a winnable game on paper. But if Wednesday’s game proved anything, it’s that Villa never read the script…

Di Matteo on Rotherham clash

“The pressure is always there. We need to be able to deal with the pressure. It doesn’t matter who you play, it’s how you play and how you act.

“We are now focusing on Rotherham. The best recipe for everyone is to be able to win the first home game. That would give the whole environment a big lift.
“It’s a long season. We have played one league game. We are looking forward to the first home match now and we want to get a positive result.”

Stubbs on Villa Park

“When you look at the nature of this league now, there’s some fantastic grounds to go to.

As a player when you go to these grounds, it just makes it all the more pleasing to get results.

“That’s what [the Rotherham team] need to focus on. If they do that, they’re capable of getting results.”

Villa have taken one point from their last fourteen league games

Memory Match

28 Aug 2013 Villa 3 Rotherham 0 (League Cup)

Goals from Weimann, Benteke and Delph were enough to beat then-League One Rotherham.

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

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

One to Watch

Will Vaulks – Newly signed from Falkirk, the central midfielder scored an impressive long-range effort on his debut last weekend against Wolves.
Facts to Sweep Under the Carpet
When Lambert started out life as Villa manager, Rotherham were in League Two. Two promotions later (although this is Rotherham’s third consecutive season at this level), and the Millers have nothing to lose as they head to Villa Park.
Finishing in a respectable position will probably be Rotherham’s aim this season after two relegation battles, but the expectation weighing on the Villa players’ shoulders at our first game at home is bound to have a nervous effect.
We possibly deserved a point from the Sheffield Wednesday opener, but another loss means it’s one point from our last fourteen games, the last point coming in February.
It’s perhaps too early to read too much into Villa’s performances so far this season, but clearly the mental fragility that characterised our Premier League exit remains. It’s the inconsistency that’s so frustrating.
Rotherham may be the first of many teams this season to head to Villa Park and try and keep the home crowd quiet.
Forgive the cliché, but opposition teams will be giving their all to pick up points from our recently-relegated Villa, and the first two games have shown that we might not be able to match those levels of effort and desire.
To make things worse, Rotherham finished last season in very good form and will look to continue that momentum despite a change in manager. They lost just one of six away games at the end of last season, whereas you don’t need reminding of Villa’s equivalent stats.

“when you go to these grounds, it just makes it all the more pleasing to get results.” – STUBBS ON VILLA PARK

Why Villa Have Got This Game in the Bag

Nathan Baker might be unavailable for this match after his injury at Luton, but new man James Chester is eligible for selection. Having impressed for Wales at Euro 2016, he left the Hawthorns in search of first team football, which he should have no problem getting if Okore’s Luton display was anything to go by.

Partnering Elphick, who was excellent on his debut against Sheffield Wednesday, Chester should strengthen the defence. Villa Park needs to be a fortress, so hopefully the new signing features.

It seems difficult these days to ever refer to Villa as favourites, but the odds are in our favour. The last time we played Rotherham in the league was a 2-0 third division victory in March 1972.

Three of our four home league meetings with the Millers ended with Villa wins, although we should add these were between 1960 and 1971. If you want a more recent encounter, we beat Rotherham 3-0 in the League Cup in 2013 – a rare instance of avoiding a cup upset. Seeing the names of Benteke, Delph and Weimann as the goalscorers that night however makes it seem like an eternity ago.

After the Luton debacle, there’s been a lot of talk of the League Cup this week, but Rotherham also found themselves booted out of the competition at the hands of lower league opposition – they lost 5-4 to Morecambe.

While they ended last season strongly, Neil Warnock has since left Rotherham. Despite leading 2-0 against Wolves last weekend, a Villa-esque turnaround saw the match end 2-2. Without sounding disrespectful, it’s surely the sort of home game di Matteo would have hoped for to properly kickstart the campaign.

The inevitable post-match criticisms of the mid-week cup exit did mask a tiny sense that Villa were a bit unlucky. How many times did we hit the post?

Ross McCormack has been getting up to speed but has looked capable of getting the goals, and could bring some much needed excitement to the Villa crowd on his B6 debut.

Basically, there are still reasons to be cheerful, and we’ll end this with an interesting historic stat.

Forgive us for still talking about the League Cup competition, but the very first League Cup final in 1961 saw Villa face Rotherham. Played over two legs, Villa won 3-2 thanks to a 3-0 win at Villa Park…

After a week of League Cup despair, we’ll take that as a good omen.


Follow Lewis on Twitter – @rymondfootball

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