The Villa Appetiser: Aston Villa v Reading 2018
Another game with more points dropped.
“That’s the Championship,” says Bruce, repeatedly, but the reality is the Villa manager should know how to navigate it. Wasn’t he given the job of Villa boss because he was a supposed ‘Championship expert’?
There’s no excuses for what’s happened since the Wolves game, Villa just haven’t been good enough and have ultimately bottled the task in hand.
It’s now three games without a win for Villa, and while it looks like 2nd place is out of the question, it’s terrible preparation for the play-off challenge. It’s not the best to go into the play-offs flat and on the wane.
Going into the final run-in to the end of the season, the betting odds for Aston Villa to gain promotion into the Premiership are around 21/10, having now slipped behind Fulham at 6/4. Next come Middlesbrough and Derby at 9/2 and 11/2 respectively.
Surely Cardiff City can’t be caught for automatic promotion now?
Reading head to Villa Park with new man Paul Clement in charge, who secured a debut win against QPR on Saturday, and the Royals have already beat Villa once this season…
Can we overcome our recent bad form with a mid-week win?
4th in the league table with the 3rd best home record.
Last five matches at home: W 3, D 1, L 1
19th in league table with 15th best away record.
Last five matches away: W 1, D 1, L 3
Steve Bruce on frustrating form
“Look, that’s the Championship (please stop saying this!).
“It’s deeply frustrating – and we’re annoyed with ourselves.
“We’ve had a frustrating few games. But we can’t give up, there’s still a lot to play for.
“We have to roll our sleeves up, get over it and go again on Tuesday.”
Steve Bruce on Reading
“They’ve just had a good result.
“They’ve been fighting down in relegation after getting to the play-off final last time out.
“I’m expecting a tough game, like they all are in the Championship.
“But it’s more about what we do. At the moment, we’re not playing well enough so we have to get that back.”
Paul Clement on Villa
“Our belief is that we can go there and win and we’ll be doing our very best to do that.
“You have to move on quickly in the Championship. In this division, you often play Saturday to Tuesday and, in this case, it’s Friday to Tuesday, so we’ll have an extra day of recovery while Villa play on Saturday.
“And we’ll focus and prepare properly. The players were back on the training ground on Saturday, looking at the game on the video, looking in depth at Aston Villa and we were training the players who didn’t play on Friday.
“And all the focus now is on moving forward and trying to get a positive result in Birmingham.
“Every game is difficult and Villa are a good side, but anything can happen in this league. QPR went there and won 3-1 recently, so we go there with belief.
“And it’s massive. We’ve got seven games, 21 points to play for. The gap was six after the game on Friday night but Birmingham played yesterday and that gap can close very quickly.
“We focused on QPR, now we’ll focus on Aston Villa – a team up towards the top of the table who want to secure that playoff place – and there’s still time for them to do even better than that.
“But I’ve been involved with teams who have been on a losing run and who haven’t been playing well and it takes its toll on players.
“So Friday night’s win will be a big lift for the players…and why can’t we get a positive result on Tuesday? I think we can.”
8th October 1986 – Aston Villa 4 Reading 1
A double from Andy Gray helped Villa overcome Reading in this League Cup clash in 1986.
12,000 were at Villa Park to watch this 2nd Round 2nd Leg tie, which also saw goals from Steve Hodge and Mark Walters.
One to Watch
Modou Barrow – The Reading man has had a hand in seven away goals in the Championship this season – four goals and three assists.
Snodgrass has played Reading eight times in the Football League but is yet to register a goal or assist against them
Facts to Sweep Under the Carpet
Confidence is key in football, but at the moment, Villa don’t seem to have any. Nor any bottle. All this talk of these remaining cup finals has come to nothing.
After beating Wolves 4-1 a couple of weekends ago, it looked like a surge into second place was on the cards.
Who’d have thought that we’d have taken just one point from games against teams towards the bottom of the division? If we can’t beat the likes of QPR, Bolton and Hull then the play-offs aren’t going to be fun.
The players don’t quite look themselves at the moment, and not even the return of Kodjia could help us to three points at Hull.
It’s even more worrying for our play-off hopes when you consider that we no longer have an injury situation to blame for our shortcomings – the 0-0 draw at the weekend saw pretty much a full strength XI for Villa.
If we are going to get back to winning ways, we’ll have to do it against a team we have struggled against in recent encounters. Despite a run of six consecutive victories against Tuesday’s opponents (in all competitions) between 2008 and 2016, Villa have lost the last two matches against them…
You might remember that a certain Lewis Grabban scored a penalty during the encounter at Villa Park last season!
“We’ve had a frustrating few games. But we can’t give up, there’s still a lot to play for” – BRUCE ON FORM
Why Villa Have Got This Game in the Bag
When Villa have scored first, we tend to go on to win, so a fast start against the Royals is vital.
Mid-week clashes at Villa Park often have a slightly flat feel to them but if we are to get back on track, nothing other than victory will do, particularly with another tough game on Saturday.
Thankfully, the history books offer some encouragement that our disappointing run might come to an end.
We mentioned that Reading win at Villa Park last season, but that was their only away victory over Villa in any competition – they’ve lost nine and drawn one of the other 10 visits.
As well as that, Villa haven’t lost consecutive home league games in over a year (February 2017), and before that QPR defeat, we were unbeaten in 10 at Villa Park.
New man Clement picked up a home win for Reading but will have to work on their away form. They’ve won just one of their last nine away games in the league, drawing three, and losing five.
With Cardiff on an incredible run, second place looks unattainable. But if we are to compete in the play-offs, it needs to be on the back of a winning run.
Hopefully our mid-week display will show our play-off rivals that we’ll still be a force to be reckoned with.