Aston Villa and the Hunt for Promotion

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Steve Bruce, manager of Hull City lifts the trophy after victory in the Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final match between Hull City and Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Steve Bruce, manager of Hull City lifts the trophy after victory in the Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final match between Hull City and Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images) /

Aston Villa have been knocked out of the cup following a disappointing no-show against Peterborough. Now all focus turns back to the league.

Villa currently occupies one of four Championship play-off spots after twenty-six games and it’s tightening up at the top. We’re five points off second place but only two points clear of seventh which just shows how close things are.

There are only twenty fixtures left in our hunt for promotion. Each one will be crucial if we’re to achieve our goal. It’s the best time to go on a good run to cement ourselves in the playoffs or force our way into the automatic positions.

Steve Bruce has been promoted multiple times from this league, now he has to do it again. I’ve looked at our full fixture list and highlighted what are the six biggest matches on our quest for a return to the Premier League.

The Remaining Twenty

FixtureReverse Result *
Nottingham Forest vs Aston Villa2-1 win
Aston Villa vs Barnsley4-0 win
Sheffield United vs Aston Villa2-2 draw
Aston Villa vs Burton4-0 win
Aston Villa vs Birmingham0-0 draw
Fulham vs Aston Villa2-1 win
Aston Villa vs Preston North End2-0 win
Sheffield Wednesday vs Aston Villa2-1 loss
Aston Villa vs QPR2-1 win
Sunderland vs Aston Villa2-1 win
Aston Villa vs Wolves2-0 loss
Bolton vs Aston Villa1-0 win
Hull vs Aston Villa1-1 draw
Aston Villa vs Reading2-1 loss
Norwich vs Aston Villa4-2 win
Aston Villa vs Cardiff3-0 loss
Aston Villa vs Leeds1-1 draw
Ipswich vs Aston Villa2-0 win
Aston Villa vs Derby2-0 loss
Millwall vs Aston Villa0-0 draw

*Result in the reverse fixture in 2017/18 season

Crunching the Numbers

Wolves are currently 12 points clear at the top of the table. This huge gap and their ability to consistently play the best football in the league makes the task of catching them seem like mission impossible for any team in the top six. Aston Villa are currently on 44 points, 17 off Wolves. The average points total for the Championship winners is 91.6*. To achieve this we’d need to win sixteen of our remaining twenty games and hope Wolves dramatically fall off. Unless there’s some sort of miracle, I can’t see it happening.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images) /

Being only five points off second this seems to be the more realistic target, even with Derby currently in fine form. The average points for the runners-up is 86.8*, a tall order as we’re 43 points off (or fourteen wins and a draw. The potential bonus here is that we still have to play Derby at home giving us a great opportunity to catch up and put the pressure on.

Aston Villa’s minimum target this season should be to finish in the top six, a playoff spot. The average points tally is 73.6*, a target that’s more than achievable. We’re ten wins so only 30 points off. We managed to earn 35 points, ten wins and five draws against the same twenty teams in the first half of the season. If we can manage this again (as a minimum) we would finish on 79 points which should be enough for at least a playoff spot.

*All statistics are based on the past ten Championship seasons.

A few interesting facts:

  • Wolves need to win at least fifteen out of their final twenty games to equal the Championship record of 106 points – not an easy task.
  • In the past ten seasons only two teams, Stoke and Hull have achieved automatic promotion on less than 80 points (79 each)
  • Since 2004, only three of thirteen playoff finals have been won by more than one goal. Seven of which ended 1-0 just showing how tight these games can be.

The Key Six

Nottingham Forest vs Aston Villa

Aston Villa play Forest next and it’s the first of a series of games in January and early February that we really should be winning. It was a close between choosing this or the Sheffield United game but if we’re going to go up we have to win the games against sides in the bottom half.

We’ll want to get our final twenty games off to the perfect start and to do that we have put our recent FA Cup disappointment behind us. Our last meeting was a tight 2-1 win back in September in which Conor Hourihane got the winner. The same again would be welcome.

Aston Villa vs Birmingham

This one had to be on the list and it could be one of the most important derby matches in recent memory. We’ll need the points for our promotion push, while Birmingham will need them to try to get away from the relegation zone. There’s not many better feeling than beating the blues but inflicting the danger of relegation would only make it sweeter.

Our last meeting finished 0-0 in another tight game against our rivals. We did beat them at home last year when Gabby Agbonlahor famously smashed home a late winner (again). It’ll be a game we should be winning on paper but it could also be a real banana skin as they’ll be right up for it.

(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images) /

Aston Villa vs Wolves

Villa against the top side in the league, it’s hard to say whether they’ll keep it up all season but at the time of writing nothing looks like stopping them. This is a big one, especially if we’re up in the top positions when we go into the fixture. Highly unlikely but if the miracle happens and the gap closes it could be a six-pointer. It’s also the start of our final ten games, the final run in.

We were well and truly beaten by Wolves last time out. The 2-0 scoreline was a lot closer than it could have been after they played us off the park. If we can get a result against them it’ll not only help our goal but show the league we want it and can achieve it.

Aston Villa vs Leeds

Leeds are currently in sixth, one point behind Villa. Things will change from now until mid-April but Leeds, like us, are expecting to be up there. They’re one of the biggest teams in the league but haven’t tasted Premier league football since the 2003/04 season. If the league is as tight in April as it is now then this could be a huge game in both team’s promotion hunts. Last time out we drew 1-1, being at home should give us the advantage.

Aston Villa vs Derby

At the time of writing Derby are in the second automatic promotion position, five points clear of us. If nothing changes throughout the next few months then this will be our chance to claw them back before the final game of the season. We’ll be leaving it late but anything can happen on the final day.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images) /

In recent years, Derby have generally fallen away in the later stages of the season. This year they’ve been solid, organised and have scored goals. I expect them to keep it up and we’ll hope to get revenge after being beaten 2-0 at Pride Park.

Millwall vs Aston Villa

Potentially the final match of the 2017/18 season, however, that all depends on where we finish. If we can get the wins to get us into second, or touching distance of second then this could be the game that sees us promoted. If we’re in the playoffs we’ll want to win to go into the knockout rounds full of confidence. The only thing that could stand in our way are Millwall at the Den. There’s no doubt that they’re beatable but they’ll be up for the fight.

Millwall are having a decent season so far sitting in 15th, six points clear of the relegation places. Depending on how things go with their season they could find themselves needing the points to stay up making it even tougher for us. Our last result was a poor 0-0 draw at Villa Park, we’ll have to be better to get the win at the Den.

Automatic, Playoffs or Neither?

After our poor December, it wouldn’t have been surprising had we lost touch with the automatic spots. Luckily, with the league being so tight we’re not too far off. If we can close the gap and get into second then it’ll all be in our hands. We just have to get as many points as we can between now and the end of the season to give us the best chance.

Finishing in the playoffs is more likely as we’ve proven we can get the points required from the same opposition. They are a risk but if we can’t get into the top two then it’s better to risk it then fall short and not get the opportunity.

It’s not going to be easy, but we’ve got enough about us to get the results we need to go up instead of having to watch another season in the Championship.