Eyes On The Prize – Aston Villa vs Nottingham Forest – Match Preview

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After a dip in form in the New Year, there has been a renewed sense of optimism after a thumping win against Sheffield United and victory away at Fulham last weekend. This Saturday we must negotiate the visit of Nottingham Forest to Villa Park.

Not much has changed for Unai Emery, who has little choice but to pick from the same squad as that which appeared at Craven Cottage. There’s little point in listing the names, it’s a growing list of long-term absentees. We have compensated and are buoyed by the recent return of the likes of Pau Torres and Lucas Digne to the squad, but it’s fair to say that we simply cannot risk any further key players spending time on the treatment table.

After a record-breaking run of home form, we have since lost three at Villa Park on the bounce. We aren’t used to it! Another loss would match the form which would lead to the demise of Dean Smith. We are a long, long way from that kind of outcome, of course. However, a return to Fortress VP would be welcome and is an important ingredient of sustaining our place at the top end of the league.

The visitors appear to be experiencing the standard new manager bounce under former Wolves boss Nuno. He’s dug out 3 wins in his first 8 which has lifted Forest up to 16th and 24 points. However, the former European Champions will be nervously awaiting an FFP hearing, scheduled for early March, in which it’s anticipated they’ll be subject to a points deduction. Like Everton, they’ll likely be battling for their Premier League status come May.

For Emery, Villa and us as supporters, these are the types of fixture which will make or break a Champions League qualification push. Defeat would undo the value of the great win over Fulham, especially against the backdrop of the Spurs defeat to the Dogheads. A draw is middling and invites pressure from below. A win would keep our eyes firmly on the prize.

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