Aston Villa finally recorded a win in 2017 by scraping a 1-0 win against Derby County. It wasn’t a pretty performance but Steve Bruce got his men across the finishing line with a very valuable three points. Villa move away from the relegation zone with eight points now separating themselves and Wigan Athletic.
Bristol City will travel to Villa Park on the back of a respectable draw away at Newcastle United, where they took a two goal lead. The Robins have already taken three points away from Villa this season and would love to make it six as they look to distance themselves from the drop zone.
Another win here would certainly dispel any fears that Villa could drop down another division, but the three points won’t come easy against a very unpredictable Bristol City team. Steve Bruce praised his team for showing a better mentality against Derby, but he’ll certainly still be looking for improvement to make sure of another win.
Here’s three ways of sure making it happens…
Laying the Foundations
Saturday’s result was met with a huge sigh of relief as Villa finally managed to pick up their first win in 2017. Steve Bruce returned to an old friend, using 4-3-3 against the Rams and it worked well with the new personnel bought in January. Lansbury was allowed to roam free going forward as the returning Jedinak anchored the midfield. Neil Taylor proved to be a solid defensive left-back down the wing and helped the left-winger on numerous occasions to put pressure on the opposition in attack.
In a desperate attempt to get a win, Bruce was seemingly changing philosophy, starting XI and formation on a weekly basis. Now that the goal has been achieved, it is pivotal that Bruce fields a very similar team to Saturday’s in an attempt to give Villa some consistency and something to build on. Changing the starting XI or formation drastically would be disastrous and put Villa right back to square one.
Bristol City’s season couldn’t have started better as they were in and around the play-off places months in to the campaign. However a miserable run of form which hasn’t shown any signs of stopping continues to force the Robins to plummet down the table.
In Bristol’s last three away games, they took a multiple goal lead on two occasions. Three early goals against Derby and two quick strikes versus Newcastle propelled Bristol into commanding positions. However they didn’t pick up the three points on either occasion due to second half capitulations, something Villa fans can sadly relate to.
Villa haven’t had much of a problem defending under Bruce which will massively boost the confidence of the team that they will be able to snatch all three points on Tuesday. A back four of Hutton, Chester, Baker and Taylor will certainly be tested early on, but if Villa commit more players back in the first half and slowly increase their attacking intent as the game goes on, Bristol should tire and relinquish their grip on the game.
Birmingham-born Jack Grealish was tipped for big things since breaking into the team proper under Tim Sherwood. Once a beacon of hope, his performances this year have done nothing but create more and more critics who feel increasingly justified in their judgement.
Being dropped out of the first team is a huge indication that Bruce doesn’t rate Grealish as highly as other managers; whether that be because of his lack of defensive contribution or Bruce’s opinion of his talent, Grealish doesn’t look like he’s going to be a regular in the starting XI.
Saturday saw the return of forgotten man Leandro Bacuna who put in a great shift and proved that he can be a valuable asset in the Championship. Unfortunately, Bacuna’s temper got the best of him and he got himself suspended for the next three games leaving an opening in the midfield trio.
Whether it be Hourihane, Bjarnason or Grealish that fills this void, this role needs to be given creative and attacking freedom to give balance to the team. Saturday was a win, but the performance was very poor at times. Somebody who can receive the ball and run at the defence to feed through one of the front three could really set Villa Park alight and maybe Jack Grealish can prove his doubters wrong and be the catalyst for Villa’s next three points.
Follow Richard on Twitter: @_RichardAVFC