Villa go into this New Years day fixture buoyed after a welcome away win at Middlesbrough, a result that lifts the club back into 7th spot after a winless December.
The narrative around Villa Park is a funny one of late, with the social media noise featuring pro/anti Steve Bruce views being largely a distraction from any reasoned debate in the centre ground.
Whilst Bruce did little to endear himself to some sections of the support with pointed post match Middlesbrough comments, the fact is that despite a woeful December run of results, Villa sit once again within striking distance of the top.
Aside from Wolves’ runaway form, there is no definitive second promotion candidate and it would be premature to suggest that any of the playoff spots are secured. Further, we have only just reached the halfway point of the season.
Bristol City are the visitors to Villa Park, a side who have improved methodically on and off the pitch under manager Lee Johnson. Johnson, barracked by his clubs own fans and whose position was under threat last season, has lead City to reach an impressive 3rd position.
The game marks an interesting juncture for Villa’s season, particularly given the polarised views on Bruce, with each game needlessly taking on the feel of ‘must win’. Indeed, it’s perhaps one element of Bruce’s comments I do agree with, that we have to get away from fan meltdowns when we don’t win every single week. Equally, we shouldn’t be going on month long runs without victories either, but the point still stands in principle.
Bristol City will be organised and have played consistently well this term. Indeed, Johnson now has a growing reputation for meticulous planning, right down to measuring blades of grass on the pitch. By contrast Bruce sticks to his guns on both his style and approach, admitting that the successful inclusions of (MOTM) Elphick and Jedinak in midfield were enforced through injury rather than selection.
Still, Villa and Bruce must seize upon the opportunity to swing the narrative once again, beating a top 8 side for the first time this season and securing valuable back-to-back wins to set the tone for the New Year and beyond. It matters little about who the manager is, what anyone’s opinion of them is even less; what matters is that we climb the table and look like promotion contenders.
KEY FACTS & STATS
- Villa are currently 7th on 41 points.
- Bristol City are currently 3rd on 47 points.
- Villa could rise as high as 5th with a win.
- Defeat might see Villa drop back down to 9th.
- Villa won away at Middlesbrough (0-1) last time out.
- Bristol City suffered a late 2-1 defeat to Wolves having lead 1-0.
- City’s keeper Frank Fielding serves a 1 match ban for seeing red.
- Bristol City’s last 8 away W: 5 D 3: L:0 – unbeaten in 12 games away from home.
- Villa have the 4th best home form in the division based on the last 8.
- Villa’s last two home games have been drawn: Millwall 0-0 & Sheffield Utd 2-2.
- Bristol City keep a clean sheet just 1 in 3 away games.
- But they’ve only failed to score on the road twice this season.
- Bristol City’s Form based on last 6 games: 5th best in The Championship.
- Villa’s Form based on the last 6 games: 17th best in The Championship.
- Visitors manager Lee Johnson prepares using drones, measures grass & ChyronHego.
- Villa are 6 points better off than at this stage last season. (35)
- Bristol City are 20 points better off than at this stage last season. (27)
- Villa’s top scorer: Albert Adomah (11)
- Bristol City’s top scorer: Bobby Reid (12) – 8 of these away from home.
- City will definitely be without: Jens Hegeler, Famara Diedhiou, Milan Djuric & Eros Pisano.
- Villa’s Captain John Terry will not feature despite returning to full training this week.
- Kick off is a late one: 5:30pm