By Kris Woodward

A month ago, Aston Villa suffered a limp 2-0 loss to West Bromwich at Villa Park. With only one win in 2019, against bottom club Ipswich, the majority of Villa fans would have taken the end of the season there and then. To be put out of their misery, so the club could focus on preparing for a 4th season in the Championship.

Enter Jack Grealish

Since his first start back in the 4-0 win against Derby County, Villa have won four matches on the trot and picked up some impressive results against good opposition (and the Blues), as well as three clean sheets along the way.

To look at those fixtures and see the likes of play-off contenders Derby, Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough and even the trip St Andrews (where Villa haven’t won since they’ve been in the Championship), Villa fans would’ve been forgiven for fearing the worst. 

Now though, Villa are more than good value for a wager and if you’re looking to place a bet on play-offs, BetOTG have you covered with their comprehensive guide on every bookmaker with exclusive offers and enhanced odds.

Jack’s Impact

It would be unfair on the other players to put this turn in form solely down to the return of Grealish.

John McGinn and Connor Hourihane both had big influences in the wins over Forest and Derby, both picking up a brace each across the games. 

However, Grealish’s return seems to have galvanised and sparked the team around him into life, and without a doubt, Villa look a completely different side with him in the starting XI.

The 23-year-old very much seems to be the key that unlocks the potential of Dean Smith’s team.

It’s also worth noting the seemingly genius move of the Villa Head Coach of making Grealish his captain. A decision that surprised all Villa fans against Derby, but one that has no doubt paid off. 

[Staff at the club have previously told MOMS, that Grealish responds well to responsibility, from Tim Sherwood’s time at the club onwards – Ed]

If James Chester or Alan Hutton were to return, I’m not sure many Villans would want the armband taken away from Grealish just yet, if at all. 

The Dreaded P-word

A magnificent run of four wins on the bounce, has catapulted Aston Villa right back into the playoff race.

Villa go into the international break occupying 6th spot (57 points), albeit on goal difference. 

However, Derby (8th– 56 points) have a game in hand whilst Bristol City (9th– 55 points) have two. Villa will also be watching over their shoulder at an in-form Preston and a revitalised and unbeaten Sheffield Wednesday under Steve Bruce. 

A look at the run in

Middlesbrough

5th – P37 Pts 58

Remaining Fixtures: Norwich, Bristol City, Swansea City, Bolton, Hull, Stoke, Nottingham Forest, Reading, Rotherham

Villa’s recent emergence on the play-off scene will be making Tony Pulis very nervous, as his Boro team have encountered a poor patch of form. Three losses on the spin and only one home win in five, will be a cause for concern.

Boro’s upcoming back-to-back home games vs Norwich and Bristol City will probably set the tone for their fate.

Once a banker for the play-offs, now Boro could be in big trouble.

Aston Villa

6th– P38 Pts 57

Remaining Fixtures: Blackburn, Rotherham, Sheffield Wednesday, Bristol City, Bolton, Milwall, Leeds United, Norwich City

There’s a decent proportion of the run-in that looks very winnable. A point at Wednesday would be good enough result, if Bruce’s men are to continue their uplift in form. The chance to terminate Bristol City’s play-off hopes at Villa Park is a welcome fixture too.

As for the Leeds and Norwich sting in the fixture tail? Hopefully, at least one, if not two of them, will be promoted by the time Villa play them.

That said, Villa won’t fear either of them.

Preston

7th– P38 Pts 57

Remaining Fixtures: Reading, Sheffield United, Leeds United, West Bromwich Albion, Ipswich, Wigan, Sheffield Wednesday, Brentford.

One of the real form sides in the league in 2019. Since their 2-1 away defeat at Rotherham, Preston are 12 games unbeaten, in a run that includes six away wins and an impressive home win over Norwich.

While Preston have real momentum, whether they are a serious play-off threat will depend on how they do in a trio of successive matches against Sheffield United, Leeds and WBA.

Derby

8th– P37 Pts 56

Remaining Fixtures: Rotherham, Brentford, Blackburn, Bolton, Birmingham City, QPR, Bristol City, Swansea, West Bromwich Albion.

If Derby are serious about the play-offs they’ll be looking at their next six games and thinking they can seriously book their place in the top six. Also, on the last day of the season, they could be at home to a Baggies team, who will have nothing to play for.

With a game in hand and a soft fixture list, Derby look to be a serious threat to Villa’s hopes, despite Villa beating them twice by an aggregate score of 7-0 this season.

Bristol City

9th– P36 Pts 55

Remaining Fixtures: Sheffield United, Middlesbrough, Wigan, West Bromwich Albion, Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday, Derby County, Millwall, Hull City.

The Robins may have two games in hand over Villa, but they have the toughest of all the contender’s run-ins, plus, that extra fixture congestion.

It doesn’t look good for them, especially after not winning in their last five games.

Sheffield Wednesday

10th – P 38 Pts 55

Remaining Fixtures: Stoke, Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest, Leeds, Norwich, Bristol City, Preston, QPR

While you could argue that Steve Bruce has given Wednesday some momentum to become a play-off threat, a closer look at their 10-game unbeaten run under him, shows the Owls haven’t actually beaten a Top 10 Championship team during that run.

To get in the play-offs, for starters, Wednesday will certainly need three points against Villa, but with five of their remaining eight fixtures being against Top 10 teams, it doesn’t look like it’ll end well.

Playing both Norwich and Leeds back-to-back, when both will still be battling it out for automatic promotion, doesn’t help either.

Likely Conclusion?

From being down and out, Villa’s play-off resurrection is akin to Tyson Fury getting off the canvas to capture hearts and minds, after being seemingly sparked out in the final round by Deontay Wilder.

After recently beating four teams back-to-back that were in the play-off mix, Villa have completely redefined the race to finish in the top six. They’ve perhaps killed off the Blues and Forest’s lingering hopes, while denting Derby and Boro, along the way.

It’s hard to see Sheffield Wednesday or Bristol City ultimately challenging, considering their respective run-ins, but with Middlesbrough’s faltering form, there potentially is two spots open now.

Derby certainly are well-placed with a game in hand and a favourable fixture list, so you could potentially expect them and Villa to pip Boro to the play-offs.

Preston’s end of season may play out like Millwall’s last season, when after a great run, they fall at the final fence, when expectation weighs down an unlikely wild card leap into the play-offs.

For Villa, it’s looking good. With players returning from injury and Super Jack as captain, they will fear no team now – until the rest of the season and in the play-offs.

With additional reporting by David Michael

UTV

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3 COMMENTS

  1. There’s definitely 2 places up for grabs. But, 6 teams chasing them. All 6 have to play others in the mix so there’s a lot of twists and turns to come. I never thought we’d be in this position at Xmas I cud not se us getting 2 wins on trot. Mi gs has been increadable what a leader. Hause too. We have centre halves with pace youth athletism and can play football. The full backs are being helped by the wingers and are not exposed 2 onto 1. Both wi gers are suddenly got the brains to get in box when the ball is on other side. With Jack always available and taking players out the game McGinn has added effectiveness to his 110% effort. After Saturday you could see it on the pitch and in the stands, a real sense of belief. Even if don’t make playoffs I can see hope ahead now. If only we can keep the likes of grealish, Mings Hause mcgin as a championship club?? Close season more deadwood will be gone with high wages. But we still have more. Lansbury, delait, tisbola, Gardner, elphic, mc cormack next season plus others who may fall by wayside. We have momentum and a future at last

  2. I think we have a good chance as long as Jack stays fit & healthy. He has not been back that long & has already been the subject of some nasty challenges and we know from previous that for some strange reason the majority of referees allow all it to go on, the most fouled player in the division I believe.

    He will be better protected in the premier, I hope we get there.

  3. Totaly agree nothing to fear, we just have to remember last season we hammered Wolves and it was all down hill from there, but I believe that we are much stronger this time round and we have at last players who seem to want to play for the shirt, I will stick my neck out and go as far as saying if we play with the same intensity and with players returning from injury we could surprise everyone and win all of our remaining matches including the play offs..

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