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.
Perhaps the most important issue which I yet to be resolved is that of the wrongful dismissal of former Villa-man Gary Cahill in Bolton’s last match against Tottenham. The club already insist that they will appeal the decision and the likelihood is that it will be overturned, meaning the defender will be able to face his old club.
That could be bad news for Villa as Cahill proved to be the catalyst in a Bolton comeback in this fixture last season, with the 25-year-old twice netting equalisers before Bolton eventually ran out 3-2 winners. McLeish, who desperately needs a win with games against Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea all still to come in the month of December, will therefore be hoping the FA do not rescind the red card handed out by Stuart Atwell, though if sense prevails they will.
Villa could be without keeper Shay Given and midfielder Jermaine Jenas who were both injured in the 1-0 defeat to Manchester United last weekend, with Sky Sports confirming that McLeish hopes the problems aren’t serious.
Despite the long odds, a punt at a score draw could be decent bet, with 4 of the last 6 league meetings between the sides at the Reebok ending in this outcome, though Bolton’s weak defence will be pleased to host a failing Villa front line who haven’t scored in 3 matches.
Villa could welcome Charles N’Zogbia back into the side after McLeish revealed that he holds no grudges over a disciplinary issue which saw the Frenchman dropped for the game against United. Captain Stiliyan Petrov is likely to return to a midfield which was poor in terms of distribution while Marc Albrighton will hope that a decent work rate rather than a showing of any real quality last time out will be enough to see him keep his place.
One player who could also come back into the line-up is Emile Heskey, with the veteran appearing in most away games so far in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but with McLeish knowing that a draw is not really good enough given the club’s testing Christmas period, a 4-4-2 formation would surely make more sense against a side that have conceded more goals than any other team in the league this season (34).
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