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SHEFFIELD UNITED (A)
With the delirium of the January Transfer Window thankfully nearing it’s close, matters can make a welcome return to football.
Villa have been resurgent of late and Bruce is once again bullish after memories of a poor December have been swept away after consecutive victories over Middlesbrough, Forest, Bristol City and Barnsley.
Whilst Villa might’ve wanted to carry this momentum immediately into another game, a late January break [owing to our FA Cup exit to Peterborough] has afforded us the time to re-group.
As such, aside from the long term layoff to Jonathan Kodjia and Chris Samba’s lack of match fitness, Steve Bruce has a full squad to pick from.
Ross McCormack, whose loan deal with Melbourne FC has since expired, has returned to the UK but has been granted two weeks leave before talks are held to determine what role he might play at Villa Park. In any event, he won’t feature against Sheffield United.
We now find ourselves in a great position, ahead of a run of fixtures that could set the tone into a crucial part of The Championship season. Many will painfully recall Villa’s collapse between January and March 2017, that ultimately cost us any realistic hope of a playoff appearance.
Whilst consolidating our playoff position is obviously the first important objective, one cannot feel that the second automatic promotion spot should be relentlessly targeted.
Any such challenge for second should begin tonight against Sheffield United, who have themselves just dropped out of the top 6 after their impressive early form has faded.
Villa somehow contrived to draw 2-2 with tonight’s hosts just before Christmas, in a game that should have been won inside the ten opening minutes.
That was a night where Villa’s December form was pretty much encapsulated, the difference now, with a clearer vision and the widely heralded arrival of Steve Agnew, is that the hoofball and individual errors are being ironed out.
That should be the difference tonight, with the central defence patrolled by Terry rather than Jedinak and the in-form Birkir Bjarnason making the protective midfield role his own.
The other change is the emergence of Scott Hogan, now firmly seizing both the initiative and opportunity; his form alone (4 goals in 3), should inspire great confidence.
2-0 to Villa
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