Yesterday saw the announcement of Aston Villa’s Championship fixtures for the 2016-17 season. With twenty-four teams in the Championship compared to the twenty in the Premiership, the boys in claret and blue will be kept busy throughout the season even before other competitions are considered.
The Villans won’t have faced many of the Championship teams recently and some will be completely new opponents. It’s interesting to look at the months that could be seen as tricky or potentially important for our team.
It seems that we will be playing more than four games per month (except in November). The current Villa players would probably struggle to cope with the extra work and to have someone like Tommy Elphick in the squad, probably as our new captain, is a step towards ensuring that Roberto Di Matteo is going to have a squad of players who can cope with the demands of these fixtures.
To start, it seems the August fixtures aren’t that difficult. It will be interesting to see how we do against our first opponents Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough as the Owls only just lost out in their bid for promotion to the Premier League and are likely to be putting up a strong fight this season to reach the same goal that we will be aiming for. It’s good to start with a test and this game will hopefully show the fans and management the quality of the players we have. If we were to suffer a heavy defeat in this game then at least the manager will have just under a month left of the transfer window to make necessary additions. This avoids the problem of overestimating the players’ abilities.
Following on from the Sheffield Wednesday game, we have a nice run of fixtures including back-to-back home games against Rotherham United and Huddersfield Town. These two teams are more than there for the taking.
August looks great for gaining maximum points but, in my opinion, September has the potential to be awful. All of those teams will at least be tipped to go up next season and our biggest games – the ones against Newcastle United and Ipswich Town – will call for plenty of grit and determination. With a good start to the season in August, hopefully by the time we face these teams Di Matteo will have the team working at its maximum capacity. The Newcastle United game is the one to watch as many people expect to see us battling for the top spot in the Championship next season.
As soon as I saw the fixture list, the first fixture I looked for was the away game at St. Andrew’s. For too long now this fixture has been left out of our diaries so, although I wish the circumstances were different, I will be glad of the revival of this derby. The Blues will be our rivals not just on derby days but within the league itself. They were perhaps a little unlucky not to work themselves into the promotion spots last season and our League Cup win over them last season may have left them seeking revenge. This is the fixture to look forward to in October; I hope it will be a cracker.
February, like September, also looks difficult for the Villa boys. If Di Matteo’s men do well in January and he recruits positive players then we can go into these fixtures fighting and fearless. Once this month is out of the way, I see no obvious issues with the fixture list.
Cautiously optimistic, I am hoping that by the time we play the Seagulls on the last day of the season, May 7th, we would have already secured promotion and be concentrating on securing a brighter future.
Predicting what is going to happen is fun but things rarely go the way you want or expect them to. Fans’ optimism is well and good but it must be matched by players who will battle when the fixtures get tough. It’s too early to make predictions but, for now at least, we can dream of an instant comeback.