No club in England’s second division has distinguished themselves far superior from the middle of the pack. Leeds and Norwich sit top of the table by 4 and 3 points, respectively.
Incredibly, just 7 points separate 8th-place Hull City from 18th-place Preston North End. Villa, officially bottom-half in 13th with a +6 goal differential, have their work cut out for them. Luckily, no club in England’s second division has clearly distinguished itself superior from the average team.
West Brom, currently 4th, have scored the most this season with 55 goals, but they just lost one of their best players in Harvey Barnes back to Leicester City. Leeds and Norwich have been the most consistent, but neither are infallible. Boro (5th) and Derby (6th) both lost 3-0 to Villa as recently as two months ago. Anything can go, but the claret and blues must shine through these middle clubs.
Nottingham Forest, Birmingham City, Swansea City, Hull, and Bristol City are all the clubs ahead of Villa with positive goal differentials, but sit just below the play-off places. That’s a lot of competition.
Draws are fine, but Villa need to collect wins. One win in the previous nine is not going to cut it.
Luckily, the claret and blues have plenty of opportunities to jump the clubs ahead of them.
March 10th: @ Blues
March 13th: @ Nottingham Forest
March 30th: vs. Blackburn (also ahead, but with a -4 GD).
April 13th: vs. Bristol City
That four-day stretch where Villa visit both Blues and Forest will be critical, as will be the final two matches of the season vs. Leeds and Norwich. But first, Villa must take care of 24th-place Ipswich Town next Saturday.