Aston Villa v Fulham preview | Bruce chasing a fifth promotion to the Premier League

May 22, 2018 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Aston Villa, Match Previews 

Aston Villa travel to Wembley to face Fulham in the Championship playoff final on Saturday, and Steve Bruce’s men go in as underdogs given the impressive form of the Cottagers in the second half of the season.

Villa booked their place in the final after beating Middlesbrough 1-0 on aggregate in the semis. Fulham won 2-1 over the two legs against Derby County.

There could be £160m riding on the outcome of Saturday’s clash at Wembley, but can Villa get their hands on it?

Freescoring Fulham have been near-invincible in 2018

Slavisa Jokanovic’s Fulham side finished third in the Championship with 88 points from 46 games. Only Wolverhampton Wanderers scored more goals and lost fewer games than the Londoners this season, and Fulham ended up finishing just two points off the automatic promotion spots.

Their form in 2018 was outstanding, losing just one league game this year right at the end of the season when their fate was already sealed. At the turn of the year, Fulham were 12th in the table, seven points adrift of a playoff place, but picked up 16 wins and four draws from the 21 games that followed to finish on the cusp of the top-two.

If the season started on January 1, 2018, Fulham would be top of the table with 52 points from 21 games, nine points clear of second-placed Cardiff City and 11 ahead of Wolves. The Cottagers hit a couple of hurdles this month, losing their final league game of the season and the first leg of their playoff semi-final clash, but they responded well in the reverse fixture and deserve to be in the final.

Villa aren’t to be underestimated, however.

Villa’s mean defence can shut out Fulham

Steve Bruce’s Aston Villa side finished fourth in the table with 83 points, boasting the third-best defensive record in the division. Their form in the last six games cost them a top-two place as they dropped eight points in the run-in. Nevertheless, they have a manager who has more experience of the Championship playoffs than most and boasts an outstanding promotion record.

Bruce has earned promotion to the Premier League four times in his managerial career – Birmingham City (2002 and 2006/17), Hull City (2012/13 and 2016) – two of which came from winning the playoffs. He’s under a lot of pressure to deliver given the resources Villa had over the majority of their opponents this season and will be grateful for the experienced heads in the squad as they’ll be able to manage the final.

Robert Snodgrass, Mile Jedinak, John Terry, Alan Hutton, Ahmed Elmohamady and Glenn Whelan have a lot of Premier League experience between them and will lead by example on the big occasion, on and off the pitch. Villa’s greatest strength in their defence, while Fulham’s is their attack.

Something has to give on Saturday, but nerves may settle the final.

Summary

Fulham are favourites, but Aston Villa had more pressure to deliver promotion this season after failing in 2016/17. The Midlands outfit have a manager who has done it four times in his career and knows how to approach a playoff final, but Fulham have beaten Villa in their last four meetings in London.

It could be too close to call as a result.

Aston Villa aiming to blow Championship title race wide open

March 10, 2018 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Match Previews 

Aston Villa host Wolverhampton Wanderers this weekend hoping to keep their faint hopes of catching the runaway Championship leaders alive.

Villa head into the game four points behind second-placed Cardiff City and a further six adrift of Wolves, meaning Saturday’s game could make-or-break their chances of securing automatic promotion.

Cardiff host struggling Birmingham City earlier in the day and Villa boss Steve Bruce will be eager to stay in touch with the top two.

Villa have regained some momentum after successive wins over Sheffield Wednesday and Sunderland, but Wolves looked impressive at Leeds United on Wednesday and they will be a tough test for Bruce’s side.

Alan Hutton’s hamstring injury will probably keep him out for Villa, while Glenn Whelan is a fitness doubt after limping off in second half at Sunderland.

Josh Onomah will be hoping for a recall after missing out at the Stadium of Light and Jack Grealish is fit for selection.

Wolves will be boosted by the return of Ruben Neves who has completed his two match suspension, while Benik Afobe may start after impressing off the bench against Leeds.

Villa lost 2-0 at Molineux earlier in the season, but their form has improved significantly since then.

They haven’t beaten Wolves since a 3-2 Premier League success back in 2012, but they look a tempting bet to end that run this weekend.

Villa are priced at 9/4 to win the game, with Wolves on offer at 7/5. The draw is available at 11/5.

Aston Villa avoid winner-takes-all match at Wigan

May 17, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Aston Villa, Match Previews, Pre-Match Analysis 

Aston Villa fans have been looking at the Premier League fixture list with trepidation over the last month, with the prospect of travelling to take on Wigan in a winner-takes-all clash at the DW Stadium on the last day of the campaign an ominous prospect. The Latics have become renowned as being relegation escapees over the last number of seasons, however Roberto Martinez’s men’s luck ran out this week.

Villa can go into the last game of the season resting easy, with Wigan already relegated after their 4-1 defeat to Arsenal on Tuesday night. Villa were relegation candidates with Unibet in April, however positive results against Stoke, Sunderland and Norwich have assured the Birmingham-based side’s safety turned the odds in their favour.

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Aston Villa v Southampton preview

January 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Match Previews 

In years gone by, a visit by the 17th place team would be an automatic 3 points for Aston Villa, and a chance to close the gap between themselves and a European spot.

Not any more, not by a long shot. The Villa project under Lambert is admirable for it’s courage and long-term vision, but not for it’s results. Football has changed. Partly it was because of Mourinho’s arrival that changed the culture of the league, where every defeat could cost you, and partly it’s because of the money involved in the game where success on the pitch makes a big difference on success off the pitch.

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Villa v Norwich preview: Will the players actually try to win this time?

October 26, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Match Previews 

5 points from 8 games is a damning statistic for any manager. Projected over the course of the season, that’s less than 25 points. It’s relegation form, plain and simple, and Villa are stuck in a rut because of it.

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Advanced Look Ahead to Reebok Road Trip

December 5, 2011 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Match Previews, Pre-Match Predictions 

Villa face a Bolton side this weekend who have the worst home record in the Premier League having won just 1 and lost 6 of their opening 7 games at the Reebok. Despite this, Bolton’s home advantage makes them slight favourites according to SkyBet and Betfair football, with a draw unsurprisingly the longest odds with Owen Coyle’s side the only team yet to draw a game all season.

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Villa Preview vs Tottenham: Van der Vaart Fitness the Key

November 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Match Previews, Pre-Match Analysis 

Villa face Tottenham having not beaten Spurs in their previous 5 encounters, with Redknapp’s side doing the double last season in strangely similar fashion. Both games ended 2-1 and while Marc Albrighton scored in each game for Villa, Rafael van der Vaart netted all four of Tottenham’s goals past Brad Friedel, now a teammate of the Dutchman at White Hart Lane. Read more

McLeish’s Villans ready for Spurs, Swansea and Man United

November 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Aston Villa will be primed to re-launch their flailing Premier League campaign this season after the international break starting with Tottenham Hotspur, then facing Swansea City and finally coming up against Manchester United in a busy few weeks for the midlands club.

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Villa Preview vs Sunderland: Goals at a Premium

It is fair to say that Villa have not exactly set the world alight under Alex McLeish so far and they will be aiming to prevent a third successive defeat in Darren Bent’s first return to Sunderland. Read more

Villa Preview vs WBA: All Indications Point to Narrow Home Win

Villa host West Brom this Sunday in their second Midlands derby of the season and will be hoping for a significantly better performance and result than in the last one with Wolves. West Brom are playing their own second derby of the season, also having faced Wolves but with a much improved display earning them a 2-0 win last week. Read more

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