Bruce’s Second City Success
Steve Bruce is sure to get a vicious reception when returns to St Andrew’s for what should prove to be a typically heated Second City derby on Sunday.
“The atmosphere will be red hot, they’ll make it that way, and it’s who handles it”, said the Villa boss in the pre-match press conference.
After last season’s matches between the two teams were evidently low on quality, Bruce admitted, recently it’s “never a great football match, probably, that’s what derby games are.”
With Villa currently top of the form table over the last six games, with five wins, they will be hoping to bring a bit more ‘football’ to proceedings this time round.
Bruce was a constant thorn in Villa’s side during his time as Birmingham manager and frequently inspired his team to victories against the odds.
Aston Villa typically had the better players in those Premiership clashes, but Bruce got his team fired up and organised, and ended up winning four, drawing two and losing three.
Now the former Man Utd captain finds himself in the opposite dugout and again his record is in the positive: as Villa boss he has faced Birmingham twice and won one and drawn the other.
Second City derbies may now be taking place in the second tier of English football, but they retain that electric atmosphere and there will be a great deal at stake for both teams on Sunday, so it should prove to be a tense affair.
After a season spent recovering from the hardship of relegation and acclimatising to life in the Championship, Villa regrouped in the summer and were named pre-season favourites to be promoted back to the top flight this time around. Things did not initially go to plan and they were languishing around the relegation zone after a few games, but Villa have since been on a real upward curve.
First of all, the 4-4-2 formation provided the foundations, but Bruce quickly learnt against Wolves, it can’t be the formation for all seasons. In playing 4-5-1, the following game against Fulham, another team with speed and guile, he proved successful and showed he’s learnt to adapt.
Villa have risen to fifth in the table and are just five points behind second placed Cardiff, so if they want to make a statement in terms of the automatic play-off spots, three points at St Andrews is really needed.
Small Heath Blues
Small Heath are struggling at the other end of the table, hovering just one point above the drop zone. They have gone to just 3/1 with some bookmakers to be relegated, so they will be fighting for their lives and this could be a pivotal game of the season.
1-0 wins against Cardiff and Sheffield Wednesday in their last two home games, suggest they have found a way to stop the rot, after fielding a staggering 29 players already this season looking for answers.
Villa are now 5/2 third favourites to be promoted, behind Wolves and Cardiff, and they certainly have bigger fish to fry than Birmingham – namely home fixtures against the aforementioned duo, both of whom have beaten Steve Bruce’s men this season – but fans will still be keen to see Villa secure a long overdue away win at St Andrews.
Win and confidence levels will rise, but lose and it could lead to a downward spiral for a team with a slightly brittle mentality.
The big game experience of John Terry could be pivotal and he will be relied upon to take the fight to Birmingham and help his younger teammates rise to the occasion.
It finished all square at St Andrews last season, but this team has a better feel to it and should be a different proposition in terms of being in position to get the win.
Villa are favourites, and the fact they have a settled team make them a tempting prospect with the bookmakers still thinking it will be a tight game. If you are looking to place some action, check out some betting websites as Villa have strong odds, and you can more than double your money by backing them to win at St Andrew’s on Sunday.
It will not be easy as Birmingham have recorded back-to-back clean sheets in their last two home wins, but this is still a team that recently lost 6-1 against Hull and has lost eight times in 13 games so far this season.
If Villa get an early goal and then seize the initiative, they could potentially go on to fill their boots ala the away trips to Barnsley and Burton this season.
Villa’s motivation and ambition really should really all be about automatic promotion, as they have the talent to pull it off, and Sunday’s game is therefore one they really should be winning.