The Villa Appetiser: Middlesbrough v Aston Villa 2017
Given that automatic promotion was the obvious remit this season, it hasn’t really panned out that way, with the Boxing Day defeat another example of the same old Villa issues.
Despite a well-worked Onomah goal, Villa put in another poor performance away at Brentford and we’ve now slipped out of the play-off places.
This is the first league meeting between these sides at the Riverside since May 2009 with new manager Pulis set to take charge of Boro for the first time.
Can we prevent a debut win for the ex-Baggies boss?
7th in the league table with the 8th best home record.
Last five matches at home: W 4, L 1
8th in league table with 11th best away record.
Last five matches away: W 2, D 1, L 2
Ryan Shotton on new Boro boss
“I’ve spent a good few pre-seasons with [Tony]! He just demands 100%, hard work and fight.
“He’ll bring this team together better than anybody I know.
“He doesn’t care about individuals – he knows that individuals come great if you’ve good base of a team to work with.
“If you’re prepared to work hard you’ll find him very easy to get on with.
“He’s put his stamp on training now and all the lads have seen that already.”
Bruce on Brentford disappointment
“It was a tough night – really, really tough.
“We just didn’t do enough.
“We simply didn’t do enough with or without the ball.
“With our club, there’s an expectation. That’s why the cameras are here and we have to hit a certain level of performance.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get anywhere near where we needed to be performance wise.”
28th January 2003 – Middlesbrough 2 Villa 5
With a battle of two pragmatic managers this weekend, a free-scoring game seems unlikely. That wasn’t always the case, however…
In 2003 the Riverside played host to a seven goal thriller and an impressive away win for Villa. Two goals from Darius Vassell helped Villa to victory while Gudjonsson, Barry and Dublin also found the net.
One to Watch
Britt Assombalonga – Boro’s big money summer signing has 12 goals in the league this season – one more than Adomah.
Tony Pulis has never lost a home league match against Steve Bruce
Facts to Sweep Under the Carpet
Several managers have already been given the sack this season, and Middlesbrough showed little in the way of Christmas spirit when they sacked Gary Monk last week.
Monk left Middlesbrough despite a 2-1 win away at Sheffield Wednesday, but it was obviously felt by their owners that they weren’t were they should be given their summer of spending. This sounds familiar…
Ultimately results may not have been good enough for Monk but Boro’s home record is impressive, and they recorded a comfortable 2-0 win over Bolton on Boxing Day with Pulis watching from the stands.
We’ve already faced Boro twice this season within a week and both were occasions to forget. There was the 0-0 league draw despite an early sending off for ex-Villa man Traore, and the 0-2 loss in the League Cup. Those were both at Villa Park, and it doesn’t look like it will get much easier away from home.
In terms of the managers, Pulis has never lost a home league match against Bruce, recording five clean sheets in those six matches.
The records also tell us that Bruce has managed nine league matches at the Riverside without a single win.
As well as this, none of the sides he’s managed have scored in any of his last six league visits there, a worrying stat given our struggles in front of goal and the likely absence of Adomah.
Middlesbrough’s ambitions of a quick return to the Premier League saw a busy summer of transfer activity including the signing of Britt Assombalonga, who has scored more goals in the Championship (26) than any other player currently playing in the league (since the start of last season).
Meanwhile for Villa, our top-scorer Adomah was injured at Brentford and subsequently could miss Saturday’s game.
It could be another tough away day for Villa.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get anywhere near where we needed to be performance wise” – bruce ON boxing day defeat
Why Villa Have Got This Game in the Bag
On paper it looks a very tough game for Villa, particularly when you look at the managerial records against each other. There’s also the risk of the ‘new manager’ bounce that so often gives teams a boost.
This will however be Tony Pulis’ first proper game as Boro boss, and he may not have had time to get his new ideas across to the team.
After the 2-0 win he watched from the stands he may not choose to change the team too much, but even so, it’s a tough game for Pulis to start his Boro career with.
Bruce mentioned he planned to freshen things up with the Brentford line-up, but with both Jedinak and Whelan in midfield, we didn’t have the energy to combat a team who beat us 3-0 last season.
Hopefully after the Boxing Day defeat he’ll bring back Hourihane to give us a chance of returning to the form we enjoyed around a month ago.
Bruce admitted after the Brentford game that the level of performance wasn’t good enough, but we’re getting worryingly used to hearing that. We must improve.
Historically luck is on our side, at least, as Middlesbrough have failed to win any of the last four home league meetings with Villa.
Let’s end 2017 with three points.
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Follow MOMS on Twitter – @oldmansaid