Steve Bruce and his charges meet a Derby County side who are having a stop start season. The Rams sit 11th in the table and boast a decent record against teams in the bottom half of the table winning five and drawing and losing one and averaging 1.2 goals a game.
Craig Bryson and Jonny Russell are fit again for Steve McClaren and may come back into the side
Villa are still struggling and have not won since beating Burton Albion on Boxing Day. Confidence is low but an improved performance against top of the table Newcastle last Monday has given hope back into a team that has collected just two points from a possible thirty conceding 18 goals along the way. Reeling from the loss to injury of Scott Hogan, who will be out for 4-5 weeks with an ankle problem, Villa have Jonathan Kodija who will have a fitness test ahead of today’s game and Andre Green as the only proper goalscoring threats upfront with Agbonlahor injured and McCormack on loan at Forest and Gestede sold to Middlesborough in January. Is Bruce regretting those decisions?
Bruce is looking at free agents to add to his striking options with Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov being mentioned also former Blackburn defender Chris Samba is training with the club with a view to earning a deal.
Villa looked like a team who’s cohesion could be creeping back in and that can only be a good sign as in reality this looks to be the main issue. Steve Bruce has said this week that he has the personnel to play a 4-3-3 and when he has a fully fit squad to choose from I’m sure he’s correct but at the moment this isn’t the case. He also said he has never played this system before so now is not the time to be experimenting. Today Villa will probably be a 4-3-2-1 with Kodija on his own upfront. Villa need to come out fast and get an early goal to try to gain momentum against McClaren’s men who aren’t great defensively either.
Villa scoring an average of a goal a game is not good and Hogan’s loss is bad timing given the need for goals and Kodija is a striker who is better on his own in all honesty. Villa have beaten Derby in all of the last four games in all competitions so are the omens good for Villa today? Let’s hope so as although Bruce is the man to get the club back up to the Premier League he doesn’t want to be the man who takes them down either.