Neil Warnock’s Bluebirds are in prime position for a spot back in the Premier League. They hold a sit two-point advantage over challengers Fulham with a game in hand; can Aston Villa stop them?
Midweek Championship action is a love/hate relationship for me. On one hand, Yay! More Aston Villa matches! On the other, it’s a realization that the quality of games have steadily gone downhill as the season marches along. Playing repeatedly on 72 hours or less of rest with international duties scattered intermittently takes a toll on players.
With that said, Villa Park is the scene between the second and fourth-placed sides in England’s second division.
Aston Villa’s embarrassing defeat at Norwich City assured that triumph in the playoffs will be the only path back to the top flight. On tap, a training exercise against Cardiff City. The Bluebirds are in a strong position to advance, but they are being challenged by a scorching red-hot Fulham team that refuse to lose. Cardiff hold a two-point cushion with a game in hand. For Steve Bruce this could be an opportunity to rest a player or two while tinkering with the starting formation.
Projected Aston Villa XI (4-3-3): Johnstone; Tuanzebe, Chester, Terry (c), Taylor; Jedinak, Onomah, Grealish; Snodgrass, Hogan, Adomah.
Substitutes: Bunn, Elmohamady, Bjarnason, Hourihane, Green, Grabban, Kodjia.
Time to make some changes, the first being an outright switch at right fullback. Elmohamady was no bueno against Norwich so let us take another look at Manchester United loanee Axel Tuanzebe. Elmo has logged a lot of miles this season, so sitting this one out would be wise with an eye towards the playoffs.
Bjarnason was one of Villa’s better performers of recent, but rotating Mile Jedinak back in is a possibility. Bruce could also push the Iceland international up towards Jack Grealish. Seeing Josh Onomah in the starting XI would constitute as a shock, but Conor Hourihane’s recent form fluctuates between excellent and anonymous. A minor tweak towards a 4-3-3 isolates Robert Snodgrass and Albert Adomah in more 1 v. 1 situations on the outside, which Villa should be looking for.
No reason to push Jonathan Kodjia. A full ninety minutes in the final 2-3 matches should do the trick. Oh, and if Bruce doesn’t utilize André Green somewhere in the eighteen, I might throw a fit.