The Villa Appetiser: Villa v Burton Albion 2016
Two Midlands teams, yet two teams with different ambitions.
Burton’s incredible rise from Non-League football on a modest budget is in stark contrast to the over-spending and under-performing of Villa’s last few seasons.
Burton, who were in League Two in 2015, enjoyed a Leicester-esque achievement of consecutive promotions to find themselves in the Championship – though recent struggles have seen them hovering precariously above the relegation zone.
It’s set to be a sell-out at Villa Park. Can Bruce record a fifth consecutive home win?
Steve Bruce on Burton Albion
“They’ve done very well. Very, very well. I’ve got the highest respect for Nigel. In the past they’ve had some very good managers.
“They’re a very well-run club. As I said, 10 years ago you wouldn’t have thought Burton Albion would be in the Championship.
“It just shows you with a bit of hard work, endeavour, a bit of stability and good management that they’ve succeeded and gone past everybody’s expectations.
“Their expectation is to stay in the league, ours is to get out of it. That’s the difference in the two clubs.
“I think that’s the beauty of the Championship. Burton Albion playing Aston Villa wouldn’t have been on anybody’s radar 10 years ago. Here it is. A full house on Boxing Day.
“They’ll enjoy it. Their players will enjoy the occasion too because it’s a huge occasion for them and, of course for us. We’ve not experienced or had a full house for a while, so we haven’t experienced it.
“So let’s go and enjoy it. The only way you can enjoy it is if you win.”
Nigel Clough on Villa
“It’s a big, big job and a big task.
“When a club is in decline as they’ve been and losing games for a period of time – we’re not talking a few months this season, we’re talking last season and maybe a bit before then – it takes some turning around.
“You’ve got to stem the flow of defeats, which he’s done – came in and a great start – and then you start building from there.
“It’s still very early days for him and it will take maybe another 18 months before they’re challenging.
“You would expect them at the end of next season to be up there challenging.”
VILLA HAVE NOT WON on Boxing Day since 2005
We have never played Burton in a league game, although Villa did win 2-1 at the Pirelli Stadium in a 2012 friendly.
Villa – Last five matches at home: W 4, D 1
Burton – Last five matches away: D 1, L 4
One to Watch
Jamie Ward – The on-loan Nottingham Forest forward is a Villa fan and scored against Birmingham City this season.
Facts to Sweep Under the Carpet
With a sold out crowd and Burton’s recent away form in mind, many Villa fans will be confident of a Boxing Day win.
While Burton haven’t won away from home this season, their performances have not necessarily befitted those of a struggling team.
Recent home defeats by Newcastle and Huddersfield have only been lost by a narrow margin, and other than their 3-0 loss away at Reading, they’ve been competitive in most matches this season.
They might be 21st in the league table but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Birmingham City, Derby and Sheffield Wednesday have all lost to Burton this season – albeit at their Pirelli Stadium home.
Boxing Day occasions haven’t been particularly kind to Villa over the last few seasons. We haven’t won on Boxing Day since a 4-0 win over Everton in 2005 – drawing four and losing five since then.
On the opposition side, the fact that the Brewers have won all four of their previous league games on Boxing Day is a rather sinister omen.
Experienced centre-back Ben Turner is back after suspension for Nigel Clough’s men, while striker Stuart Beavon, who was so important to their consecutive promotion campaigns, is expected to be fit following a month away with injury.
Burton’s on-loan forward Jamie Ward was released from Villa at 2006 and could return to the line-up following a substitute appearance against Newcastle. He insists he has “no point to prove”, but that never ends well…
“It’s still very early days for him and it will take maybe another 18 months before they’re challenging” – clough on villa
Why Villa Have Got This Game in the Bag
After so many poor performances on TV, it was good to finally end our wretched televised run with the win over QPR. We showed more of the resilience that has characterised Bruce’s brief Villa reign.
Expectations will be different at home to Burton, but the visitors are fighting to move clear of the relegation zone. We’ll have to be patient, but we have at least seen that with wins against teams lower in the table at Villa Park, having beaten five out of the bottom six (Burton would make it six out of six).
Burton Albion’s last few seasons in the Football League have been the greatest in their history, but the Championship is their toughest test yet. While performances have been good, Burton have now lost their last three league matches.
With Villa seemingly willing to be active during the January transfer window, players will be fighting for their places, and we saw last weekend that squad changes can provoke a reaction.
Hopefully Villa can give the sell-out crowd a rare Boxing Day victory.
Follow Lewis on Twitter – @rymondfootball
Follow MOMS on Twitter – @oldmansaid