Aston Villa vs Brentford
Sky Bet Championship
Villa Park, Kick-Off 7.45pm
To say it's been an interesting few months for the Claret and Blue half of Birmingham would be putting it lightly. A 1-0 Play-Off Final defeat to Fulham was followed by a summer of uncertainty, on and off the pitch, as Villa's financial woes were laid bare for all to see. Experienced players like John Terry, Christopher Samba, and Gabby Agbonlahor left while vultures circled over prized assets including Jack Grealish. Steve Bruce too looked set to leave Villa Park as he struggled to bring any new players in against the grim financial backdrop.
However, last month saw new investment into the club in the shape of the NSWE group and a renewed optimism around Villa Park. Bruce was able to add to his squad with John McGinn and Orjan Haskjold Nyland joining permanently while Axel Tuanzebe returned on loan from Manchester United.
Stability off the pitch has brought results on it with Villa heading into tonight's game unbeaten in four to begin the campaign. Victories over Hull City and Wigan Athletic, and a draw with Ipswich Town last time out, sees The Villains sit sixth, behind The Bees on goal difference. Progress was also made in the EFL Cup after a 1-0 victory over Yeovil Town.
Villa are down to just one fit striker for tonight's game with Keinan Davis and Scott Hogan both out for the foreseeable future with groin injuries. Rushian Hepburn-Murphy is still building-up to full fitness while Ross McCormack hasn't been handed a squad number for the new campaign leaving Jonathan Kodija as their only striking option.
For The Bees, Emiliano Marcondes will miss out with a foot injury while Rico Henry remains sidelined with a long-term knee injury. Tom Field, Chiedozie Ogbene, Moses Odubajo, and Marcus Forss all featured for Brentford B last night against AFC Bournemouth meaning they too are unlikely to make the trip to Villa Park.
This season is Steve Bruce's 40th in professional football after a stellar career as a player and a manager. Bruce started out at Gillingham but made his name as part of the Norwich City team that won promotion from Division Two in 1986 before finishing fifth in Division One the season after. While at Carrow Road he also won the League Cup in 1985 before moving to Manchester United in 1987. At Old Trafford, Bruce won three League titles, three FA Cups, three Charity Shields, a League Cup, the European Cup Winners' Cup and the Super Cup.
Bruce ended his career at Sheffield United before taking his first managerial role with The Blades. He lasted just a season at Bramall Lane and had short spells with Huddersfield Town, Wigan Athletic, and Crystal Palace before returning to another of his former clubs, Birmingham City. In six years at St Andrew's, he twice won promotion to the Premier League but left in October 2007 after a falling out with the board. He achieved mid-table Premier League finishes with both Wigan Athletic and Sunderland before moving to Hull City in 2012. He led Hull to promotion during his first season before keeping The Tigers up, and reaching the FA Cup final for the first-time in 2014. He wasn't able to achieve the same results the following year, leading to relegation, but The Tigers roared back, winning the Sky Bet Championship Play-Offs in 2016. Despite winning promotion, frustration at a lack of transfer activity at The KCOM Stadium, saw him depart a month later before he arrived at Villa Park that October.
HEAD TO HEAD
Brentford wins: 2
Aston Villa wins: 6
Last competitive meeting:
Brentford 2 Aston Villa 1, Sky Bet Championship, 26 December 2017
Brentford: Bentley; Yennaris, Mepham, Bjelland, Barbet; McEachran (Mokotjo), Woods, Sawyers; Jozefzoon, Canos, Vibe (Maupay)
Goals from Romaine Sawyers and Lasse Vibe wrapped up the points in front of the Sky Cameras
Mark Burridge is your host from Villa Park tomorrow. He'll be joined by Mick Cabble and Ciaran Brett, bringing you live match commentary from 7.15pm.
Tonight's game is also Live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Football from 7pm.