After Leeds United threatened to ruin our festive celebrations, the win away at Swansea (our first in decades) saw a grittier display from the team, thanks to a good performance from Nyland.
Just a couple of days later, it’s now on to Preston, a team feared by recent Villa managers.
Disappointing results against Preston have resulted in the sack for our last two managers, but thankfully, our overall record against them is good.
It might not be a goalfest though. The last seven second division clashes at Deepdale between the two teams have seen just 11 goals – six for Preston, five for Villa.
Can Villa build on our important Boxing Day win?
17th in the league table with the 12th best home record.
Last five matches at home: W 2, D 2, L 1
9th in the league table with the 9th best away record.
Last five matches away: W 3, D 1, L 1
Alex Neil on Villa
“Villa are a good side. They will probably come with a front three of Tammy Abraham, Jonathan Kodjia and Yannick Bolasie.
“If you put those three in the market you are looking at £50m-£60m – Bolaise went for £20m by himself.
“It’s certainly not going to be an easy game and when you are not at full strength it makes it difficult.
“But we showed character at their place and we will go into this one in an optimistic manner.
“In games at this level there is not a lot between the sides.
“The games we have lost this season have generally been by the odd goal.
“We will be ready for this one, there should be a good atmosphere and we will have to take our chances.”
Dean Smith on the injury situation
“The matchday squad at the minute is what we have.
“Callum O’Hare is injured at the moment and Jake Doyle-Hayes is ill. We’re down to bare bones at the moment.
“Hopefully Mile Jedinak will train with us on Thursday, and Henri Lansbury is also not far away.
“We’ll look to build up that squad and be fit to fight in the second half of the season.”
1st November 2017 – Preston 0 Villa 2
First half goals from Chester and Snodgrass were enough to pick up an away victory as Villa found form last season.
Player to Watch
Alan Browne – The Irish midfielder has chipped in with eight goals this season, including a stunner on Boxing DayEmbed from Getty Images
Since his January 2017 debut, Hourihane has been directly involved in more league goals (27) than any other Villa player – 16 goals, 11 assists.
Facts to Sweep Under the Carpet
There’s an interesting mixture of recent memories against Preston.
Of course there was the match at Villa Park this season, which we all know about. There was also another draw at Villa Park after we were 2-0 up, in January 2017 – Henri Lansbury’s debut.
Put simply, games against Preston North End rarely go to plan.
This season, Preston are not doing quite as well as they have in previous campaigns, but their 17th place position doesn’t tell the whole story.
After a shaky start they’ve given themselves some breathing space from the relegation zone, and actually have a pretty good home record, which doesn’t bode well for Villa.
Preston’s Boxing Day defeat at home to Hull City ended a six-match unbeaten run at Deepdale, so clearly they’re capable on home soil.
Dean Smith has mixed results in his last seven trips to Deepdale, alternating between victory and defeat.
He did record a 3-2 win there with Brentford in October 2017, though…
“We showed character at their place and we will go into this one in an optimistic manner” – Neil on Villa.
Why Villa Have Got This Game in the Bag
We have failed to win any of our last three home games, but on the road, it’s been a different story, and we’ve bagged 10 points from the past four away matches.
Like Preston, we have a worrying injury situation, but we still have lots of quality in the ranks.
Hourihane’s goals in the last two games have reenforced his importance for Villa. Since his debut, he’s been directly involved in more league goals (27) than any other Villa player with 16 goals and 11 assists.
The absence of Tuanzebe presents another tough challenge for Villa, but Bree did well at centreback against Swansea (reinforcements are incoming soon).
Our record at Deepdale is encouraging. We mentioned the Di Matteo match (a 2-0 loss), which led to the end of his Villa tenure. That was the one occasion in 14 meetings that Preston have won.
The loss against Leeds, whilst very annoying, was our first in nine league matches. We’re still in pretty good form, in terms of the play-offs.
If Villa can keep picking up results over the next couple of weeks and bolster the squad with some new signings, the play-offs should be a given, even if automatic promotion remains a long shot now.