Aston Villa

Premiership 

2pm, Sunday 13th February 2022

St James’ Park

Live on SKYSports 

This Sunday sees a quick turnaround, following the glorious scenes on Tuesday evening.  For, next up, it’s Steven Gerrard’s upwardly mobile Aston Villa.  

It’s been a very long time coming, but it’s beginning to look like we’ve a team to get behind.  We’re still not anything close to being safe, but those seven points from the last three played have done much in building a possible safety platform. 

Being at SJP on Tuesday was a wondrous experience.  The team and the terraces ‘United’ as one.  A side that presses, possesses fight with the X factor of Kieran Trippier is presenting us with a whole new experience. I.e. being pleased to be there! 

What of our visitors this weekend?  

Having made the emotionally tough decision to part ways with ‘one of their own’ in Dean Smith, they appear to have made a shrewd move in coaxing Stevie G out of Glasgow.  I’ve long been a fan of his.  There can’t be too many better midfielders to have graced the Premiership, and it appears he’s taken to management like a little Scouse duck to water. 

Fair do’s, a decent chunk of the Scottish top flight are probably on a par with middling English Championship sides.  One could even make a case that a couple of the lesser lights such as the St Johnstone Arms and the Dundee & Duck would be plying their trade in third tier Mackem territory.  However, the task of getting above a dominant Celtic was a big one, and in delivering the Title last season it’s a task that Gerrard completed superbly. 

From a ‘playing staff’ perspective, It’s fair to say that he was dealt a better hand than wor Eddie, when walking through the doors at Villa Park. However, that aside he’s delivered an encouraging set of results, which have eased our visitors away from the murk at the bottom nicely.  Arriving in early November, his record is W5 D2 L4 in the league. Decent form, which has seen them rise to 11th in the table, some seven points above Eddie’s Mags pre kick off. 

When I look at their squad, my first thought is ‘solid.’  A decent keeper in Martinez,  a workmanlike defence and pretty potent looking midfield/attack. Phil Coutinho re-announced himself to English audiences with a goal v Man U, and is sure to be a threat. Buendia looks a player and of course, Danny Ings (who I’d have bought about three times) doesn’t mind a notch against us. As well as these, of particular concern to United should be young Brummie, Jacob Ramsey.  His recent form suggests the possibility of great things ahead. 

On to the Mags.  As I write; still submerged in Tuesday’s win glow, it should be noted that we had our usual couple of injuries to deal with.  A much more ‘up for it’ Joe Willock may be a doubt, and KT also missed the final few minutes with what looked like a calf strain. Chuck Matty Targett being unavailable (due to us playing v his parent club) and it’s probable that Eddie may have to shuffle his deck.  It’s a good thing that we have a bit of strength in depth then.  Geordie giant, Dan Burn will be itching to get out there, and you’d like to think that Bruno will see a bigger slice of the action. 

As usual, it’s a toughie to predict.  My only nagging doubt currently, is what we have available up top.  I’ve long seen Chris Wood as a decent enough striker for ‘our level.’  Perhaps it’s too soon to judge, but whilst a hard working team player, I’ve seen little to suggest he is gonna score many.  I’d love him to alter this opinion, but I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing we had a fully fit & firing Callum starting at centre forward. 

Having taken in the highlights of Wednesday night’s Villa/Leeds fixture it was a very much a mixed bag for the Villans.  An imperious Coutinho inspired first half performance gave way to a much shakier second period.  In our favour, they lost the aforementioned Brazilian, along with Buendia through injury; and defensive lynchpin, Konsa to a late red. He’ll definitely miss Sunday’s fixture. The other influential pair are doubts. 

Prediction 

If we want to extricate ourselves from a long, continued relegation battle, this is a ‘must win.’  An improving Villa is a test, but there are tougher ones ahead.  We’ve spurned some many chances v the likes of Norwich and Watford that we just need to go and get the points. 

My predicting is laughable this season, but FWIW, I think we’ll nick it on Sunday. We’ve a bit of momentum and another radged up SJP will also help.  I’m going 2-1 to the Mighty Mags. 

Make it so….. 

Nick Clark

@Clark5Nick