The Villa Appetiser: Aston Villa v Middlesbrough 2017
After another unsatisfying result at Villa Park, big question marks about promotion are being raised.
Of course, it’s early in the season, but we’re already leaving ourselves with a lot of catching up to do.
Bruce is under pressure and while it seems the board are backing their manager, you can’t help but wonder if this could change with a defeat on Tuesday.
It’s the first time the two sides have met in the second division since 1988, an occasion in which Middlesbrough won.
Villa will be seeking all three points to get back to within a point of Middlesborough, who currently occupy a play-off spot.
Bruce on September
“Let’s get ready because we have a big game on Tuesday.
“They are one of the best sides in the division.
“It’s a good time for us to respond after a frustrating performance.
“We need to regroup and go and play in a certain manner.
“The first thing you need is an energy – a physical output – to make sure the crowd go with you.
“[On Saturday] unfortunately we didn’t have enough of it.
“Lads who are big, strong, powerful and athletic were jaded.
and on Boro
“They are a good side. They don’t give much away at all.
“They had another clean sheet [on Saturday] and are decent at the other end of the pitch too.
“They will be a tough nut to crack.”
Monk on lifting away curse
“Obviously we’re delighted to get the win and I think it was well deserved because some of the football we played at times was superb.
“It was a big step forward for us. I thought we were dominant for most of the game.
“When you don’t win away from home for such a long time the pressure can build up, so to get that pressure lifted feels great.
“It’s only one game but it’s an important one and hopefully we can carry it forward into the games coming up.”
9th November 2008 Villa 1 Boro 2
A goal from Sidwell wasn’t enough to avoid defeat the last time Middlesbrough visited Villa Park in the league.
Villa – Last five matches at home: W 1, D 3, L 1
Boro – Last five matches away: W 1, L 4 (Two in Premier League)
One to Watch
Adama Traore – The ex-Villan was instrumental in Boro’s 3-0 win at Bolton on Saturday. If he’s allowed to run at an ageing Terry, then Villa may have problems.
Villa have lost just one of the last 11 league games at Villa Park
Facts to Sweep Under the Carpet
Given the struggle we had against Brentford, a team in the relegation zone, Tuesday’s game looks like a tough one.
Having left Leeds in the summer Monk seems to be settling in at Boro, with Saturday’s 3-0 win away at Bolton representing their best result so far.
It was this victory that lifted a curse once familiar to the Villa fans – a long run of games without an away win. Middlesbrough’s win ended a run of 20 league games without victory on the road, and against a Villa side lacking form and confidence, they’ll be reasonably confident of making it two in a row.
Boro enjoyed an excellent attacking performance this weekend but they’re defensively solid, too – only Leeds have kept more clean sheets in the Championship than Boro’s four (along with Wolves and Preston).
Bruce admitted that he had got the team selection wrong after Saturday’s game and after three key players (Onomah, Davis and Green) were forced off through injury, there are a number of tough decisions for Bruce to make regarding squad changes.
While Gestede is injured, Villa could be reunited with Downing and Traore, and the latter had a great game against Bolton with two assists. Having been sold last season after little in the way of game time during his spell with us, the winger could have a point to prove at Villa Park.
“Traore is so good it’s a joke” said Britt Assombalonga after Boro’s 3-0 win this weekend – hopefully the joke isn’t on Villa on Tuesday night!
“They are a good side. They don’t give much away at all” – BRUCE ON BORO
Why Villa Have Got This Game in the Bag
All of a sudden the Norwich game seems like a distant memory, and the Brentford display was not one of a promotion-chasing side. Still, there are some positives.
We still have reasonably solid home form – we’ve lost just one of our last 11 league games at Villa Park – so Boro will be in for a tougher game than they were at the weekend.
Middlesbrough’s Britt Assombalonga, signed from Nottingham Forest, is joint top scorer in the Championship this season, matching several other players who have all scored four goals, including our very own Conor Hourihane.
If, like in the Norwich game, we can play in a system that brings out the attacking best of the likes of Hourihane, things might not be so bad.
To make things better, the statistics can offer some encouragement – Middlesbrough haven’t won back-to-back away league games since April 2016…
With Villa away at Barnsley this weekend, it could be a tough week for Villa.
A home win against Boro could potentially transform our momentum for the rest of this vital month.