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Opposition View: Aston Villa

31 January 2017

The Birmingham Mail's Aston Villa reporter Gregg Evans previews tonight's opponents

How has life begun at Aston Villa for Steve Bruce?

When Steve Bruce came in, Villa were on a very poor run of one win in nine. The board felt that Bruce was the best man for the job as he had taken three groups of players up out of the Championship. The fans were a little bit mixed because of his connections to Birmingham City as a player and a manager. They had spent so long giving him stick that they weren’t sure what to make of it when he was the manager. He got underway to a good start but since then they have gone off the boil a little bit, winning only two of the last seven. However, the fans are still sure that he is the right man for the job. Bruce probably won’t like me for saying this but Aston Villa were playing better football under Roberto Di Matteo than they are now but the results were not as good. In truth, they haven’t played well all season: there are only three or four games where you can look back and say they really looked like a good side. They have relied a lot on Jonathan Kodija to save them in a lot of games.

Nine points off the top six, are Play-Offs still the aim this campaign?

The short-term aim calls for promotion this season or next season. If they want to do that, then they really need to start putting a run together soon. Steve Bruce has identified these next two games, Brentford away and Nottingham Forest away as the catalysts for doing just that. Bruce has admitted that the top two are far out of reach now but he still believes that the Play-Offs are a possibility. However, Villa need to get going quickly to achieve that.

Villa have been busy in the transfer market so far this January, are any of the new men likely to be involved?

Bruce has hinted that all the new men will be involved at some point tomorrow. They have had a week to get to know their teammates and get to know what Bruce wants from them. Both James Bree and Conor Hourihane have been playing week-in and week-out so they don’t need to get up to speed fitness wise. It’s slightly different with Birkir Bjarnason as they have been on a winter break in Switzerland but he did play in a reserve match last week. Mile Jedinak will miss out with a groin injury so expect to see the new lads get a game.

It's five defeats in six on the road for Bruce's side, what do you put their poor away for down to?

Away form has been a problem for a long time now. During the Premier League season Villa only won once away from home, that was on the opening day of the season, and this season they’ve only picked up two wins on the road. It is clearly now a mentality thing that Bruce is trying to correct. Part of the reason for bringing the five players in so far this month is to bring some fresh minds and attitudes into the dressing room. Hopefully that will carry over into the away form.

What sort of game are you expecting Villa to try and play tonight?

Villa will likely line up 4-3-3 with Jonathan Kodija as the main centre forward. I would expect Villa to look to come out and dominate a bit more than they usually do on their travels. Bruce knows the importance of trying to get six points this week to re-ignite the Play-Off push so I can see his side coming out with a bit more attacking intent and not sitting back as much.

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