Midweek Championship means another quick turnaround for Aston Villa. The claret and blues travel to Hillsborough Stadium on Saturday.
Thanks to our friends, Leeds United, Villa stay third in the EFL Championship table heading into matchweek 34. The Whites held onto to draw the Rams of Derby County by a score of 2-2. Kasey Palmer’s late goal in stoppage time meant Derby remain one point behind Aston Villa.
Cardiff City, however, expanded the gap between second and third to four points with a victory over Ipswich Town – Kenneth Zohore ‘s goal in the 65th-minute the difference maker.
Aston Villa travel to a rather struggling Sheffield Wednesday side on Saturday. The Owls sit in 16th-place with a -5 goal differential on the campaign. They were widely thought to be playoff contenders after reaching that same stage the year before. I even had them winning the league this year! (oops).
In any event, a trip to Hillsborough is no easy task, made even harder by the fact injuries continue to plague the club in attack. Jack Grealish and Albert Adomah are once again serious doubts for this weekend’s clash.
Ahmed Elmohamady was less than 100% after being replaced the weekend before, but he came on in the closing stages against Preston North End to ensure the 1-1 draw. Robert Snodgrass, too was withdrawn, but he looks good to go after having the wind knocked out of him. Jonathan Kodjia is still weeks months away – if even he or the club have aspirations of him playing the remainder of the season.
Projected Aston Villa XI (4-4-1-1):
Goalkeeper: Sam Johnstone
Right Back: Axel Tuanzebe
Right Center Back: James Chester
Left Center Back: John Terry
Left Back: Alan Hutton
Right Midfield: Robert Snodgrass
Center Midfield: Mile Jedinak
Center Midfield: Birkir Bjarnason
Left Midfield: Lewis Grabban
Attacking Midfield: Callum O’Hare
Center Forward: Keinan Davis
As always, this is what I think Aston Villa might do, not necessarily what I would do. The number of injuries at the club further cloud formation and personnel selections. The back four remains the same with the only true question being: Elmo or Tuanzebe at right back? The former’s link-up play with Robert Snodgrass this season has been terrific, but Tuanzebe provided enough value on Tuesday to not surrender his role.
A mostly-flat midfield four comprise the second block away from home. Mile Jedinak looked gassed at the end of Preston; his fitness will be one to monitor as the 33-year old isn’t quite suited for 270 minutes in seven days. It is tough leaving out Conor Hourihane, but Steve Bruce could elect to use he, BB and Jedi in a midfield trio as well.
Lewis Grabban will start on Saturday, but, “where exactly?”, is a good question. Likewise, Keinan Davis was a workhorse in the second-half. His hold-up play will allow the likes of Snoddy and Grabban to dribble, create, and shoot.
The ultimate wildcard, however, is Callum O’Hare. No betting man should think of him as a good bet to start. After all, he has not been included on the bench for several weeks. But something tells me in crunch time and that we may see the youngster in the number ten role.
Substitutes: Bunn, Taylor, Elmohamady, Whelan, Onomah, Hourihane, Hogan.