Preview: Bristol City (v) Aston Villa – Injuries mount and remembering what an away win feels like.

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The 8th of August 2015 was a lovely time.  A pre-season of continental recruitment, a debut goal for new signing Rudy Gestede and Tim Sherwood in a summer gilet.  What could possibly go wrong?

It was also the last time that Aston Villa thought it appropriate to win a game of football away from Villa Park.  And considering that we have only managed a victory on home soil…what?….four times since in the league?  It’s certainly time to kick on.

As discussed in the latest podcast, The Villa Underground is still remaining positive about the season so far.

To date, we have had some misfortune, continue to be a work in progress in terms of signings but appear much improved on last season.  Certainly the latter isn’t hard given our record breaking crash from the Premier League, but the upturn to playing style and direction of the club generally cannot be easily dismissed.

With that said, there are the usual challenges.

With Rudy Gestede is sidelined after suffering a hamstring injury in the 0-0 draw with Derby and Tshibola is nursing a groin problem that will enforce his absence. Villa’s threadbare options are therefore already being exposed.

However, the delayed international clearance for Mile Jedinak has finally come through, making the Australian enforcer a possible starter alongside Ashley Westwood in midfield.

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Equally, Ritchie De Laet has also joined the club from Premier League Champions Leicester [that still doesn’t sound right] and could reasonably find himself thrown in at the deep end to compensate for Leandro Bacuna’s defensive frailties.

Roberto Di Matteo may have to approach the formation differently as a result of Gestede’s absence.  The Benin international has been a favoured targetman of the Italian in the opening fixtures.

The striking options could be narrowed, combining McCormack with Ayew and giving Grealish a supporting role.

Alternatively, Di Matteo may consider Libor Kozak worthy of another opportunity to demonstrate his worth, despite a limited offering during an appearance in Derby.

Our hosts Bristol City finished 18th last season on 52 points.  This was 12 points clear of relegation in what would reasonably have been considered a consolidation season after promotion from League 1 the previous year.

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City have started the season well, securing victories over newly promoted sides Wigan and Burton respectively.  Bristol’s two defeats have tellingly come from the two accompanying sides relegated with Villa last term, Norwich and Newcastle.

This fixture therefore represents a reasonable test for Villa, one which two sides who are vying for immediate promotion to the top flight have overcome.  Equally City have started with some clear intent that they don’t want to be scrapping around the bottom this year.

Predictions:

Villa have only conceded goals through two glaring goalkeeping errors so far this season and the defence has improved immeasurably.  With the addition of Jedinak to a midfield lacking bite, we also carry that solidity further up the field.  Up front, despite the loss of Gestede, we certainly carry a threat in a three pronged attack of McCormack, Ayew & Grealish.  We must continue to be tight at the back but clinical up front.

2-0 to Villa.

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