Venue: City Ground
Date: Saturday 4th February 2017
Referee: Paul Tierney
Nottingham Forest: L D W L W
Aston Villa: D L L D L
Last time the two teams met: 11th September 2016 – Aston Villa 2 – 2 Nottingham Forest
Goals from Ross McCormack and Rudy Gestede were not enough to give the hosts a taste of victory, as Villa new boy Henri Lansbury stole a late point for Nottingham Forest.
After a dismal month in terms of performances and results in January, Bruce’s men will be looking for a good start to February.
This month will be huge in determining the club’s fate this season, with six games in twenty-four days for the Villans.
They start the marathon schedule in front of the Sky cameras, travelling to the City Ground to take on Nottingham Forest this evening. Villa’s record in front of the cameras this season has been nothing short of shocking, winning only one of the fifteen games broadcast live this season.
Couple that with Villa’s away record, which sadly shows the boys from B6 have won only two games on the road, and it is crystal clear that this evening’s fixture needs to see the tide turn.
After handing new arrivals Conor Hourihane and Birkir Bjarnason starting places on Tuesday at Griffin Park, Bruce could throw more new signings into the mix, with James Bree and deadline day acquisitions Neil Taylor and Scott Hogan in contention for the trip to the East Midlands.
Tuesday’s performance was the worst of the manager’s reign so far and left the fifty-six-year-old raging and determined to get back to basics against Nottingham Forest in order to turn the team’s fortunes around. His choice to play a midfield trio made up of Bjarnason, Hourihane and Lansbury did not work as this combination left far too much space in between the defence and the midfield so there should be changes to the starting line-up.
The hosts come into the game after a morale-boosting victory over rock-bottom Rotherham United mid-week. The Reds enjoyed a fruitful end to the transfer window, bringing in five players on the last day. Two of their January loan signings are Villa’s Aaron Tshibola and Ross McCormack, who are not allowed to play against their parent club.
Forest fans have been critical of the way that the club has been run in recent times but some optimism is beginning to build after a promising transfer window.
Mile Jedinak will miss out again with the groin injury which has stopped him from participating in the last two games.
Gabby Agbonlahor also missed out on Tuesday after tearing his hamstring in the latter stages of the 2-2 draw with Preston North End and is not expected to feature.
Scott Hogan is set to start alongside Jonathan Kodjia in attack, as Bruce tries to address the lack of goal-scoring opportunities that the side has had in recent weeks.
New signing James Bree will once again be looking to force Alan Hutton out of his starting berth, while Gary Gardner and Leandro Bacuna will look to solve the problems in the club’s midfield.
Forest’s new signings Zach Clough, Joao Texieira and Gboly Ariyibi are all in contention to start after arriving from Bolton Wanderers, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chesterfield respectively.
One to watch:
Jamie Ward (pictured) is a player the Villans know all about. He scored for Burton Albion during Villa’s 2-1 victory on Boxing Day but was recalled from his loan spell in January.
He is a workhorse of a forward who leaves everything on the pitch and he will make sure that a Villa defence that has not been solid recently has a tough, tough game.
The Northern Ireland international is very experienced, having played for Forest’s bitter rivals Derby County for four years, scoring thirty-four times.
A product of the Villa academy and also a fan of the club, Ward will no doubt be up for the fight if he features in the starting XI this evening.