Venue: Villa Park
Date: Tuesday 28th February 2017
Referee: Simon Hooper
Aston Villa: L L L L W
Bristol City: W D L L D
Last time the two teams met: 27th August 2016 – Bristol City 3-1 Aston Villa
Jack Grealish put the visitors in front at Ashton Gate but goals from Tammy Abraham, Joe Bryan and Lee Tomlin made sure the Villans left with nothing to show from the game.
It may have been a long time coming but the taste of victory was back on the lips of all Villa fans on Saturday. Bruce’s side secured its first three points of 2017 with a hard-fought triumph over Derby County.
There is no time for the side to ponder that result though with the visit of Bristol City to Villa Park this evening.
Saturday’s victory was built on the defensive combination of James Chester and Nathan Baker, a partnership which was also crucial in Villa’s good run earlier in the season. The duo will once again need to be influential as the Robins have been free-scoring this season.
Baker, who spent the season on loan at Ashton Gate last season, will be particularly important to deal with the aerial threat of Aaron Wilbraham.
Another former Bristol City man, Jonathan Kodjia, had arguably his worst game in a Villa shirt on Saturday despite the result, although the Ivory Coast international will be fired up for the visit of his former club as he looks to show the Robins what they have been missing this season. The powerful, tricky forward will once again start up top on his own after the injury to Scott Hogan but it is not a position that really seems to suit the striker.
Bruce has mentioned numerous times that he likes Kodjia playing off the left-hand side, where he can beat players, cut inside and finish. Instead, he has been forced to play him in the centre and Saturday’s game provided clear evidence that Kodjia isn’t really the target man needed when playing with one striker.
Bruce’s men moved to eight points above the relgation zone after Saturday’s victory and would obviously put more room between themselves and their visitors with three points tonight.
The Robins will come to Villa Park on the back of a morale-boosting draw against Newcastle United, although they will be slightly disappointed after leading 2-0 at half time.
Manager Lee Johnson had been under immense pressure prior to that game and it is still rumoured that he could be set for the exit door should they lose at Villa Park. His side is sliding perilously close to the relegation places.
Leandro Bacuna will start a three-match ban for his sending off in Saturday’s victory against Derby County.
Conor Hourihane missed that victory with a dead leg sustained in training but should be fit enough to replace Bacuna in the starting line-up tonight.
James Bree returned to the bench on Saturday and will be looking to make his home debut after signing from Barnsley in January.
Mile Jedinak will be assessed to adjudge whether the midfield destroyer is fit enough to play his third game in eight days after his return from injury.
Big money January signing Scott Hogan was stretchered off during last Monday’s defeat to Newcastle United and will be missing for a month with an ankle injury.
Strikers Rushian Hepburn-Murphy and Gabby Agbonlahor are both still missing through injury.
The visitors will be without top scorer Tammy Abraham after the forward returned to his parent club, Chelsea, for treatment on a thigh problem.
Lee Johnson’s side will also be missing another striker in Milan Duric so Aaron Wilbraham is set to continue in attack after his goal against Newcastle United on Saturday.
One to watch:
David Cotterill (pictured) returned to the club where he started his career in the January transfer window, on loan from Villa’s bitter rivals Birmingham City. A winger who has the ability to deliver pinpoint crosses, he will no doubt have had a few texts from his former team-mates asking him to make sure the Robins get a result.
The Wales international has been an almost ever-present since joining the club and has impressed with his willingness to work hard both in attack and defence, whilst also delivering those killer crosses from dead ball situations.
His intelligence and experience mean he has been crucial to the side since his signing, dictating the tempo of the play and choosing when the Robins play neat football and when they should be a little more direct.
The control that he will try to have on the game is something which the Villa boys will need to neutralise if they are to get back-to-back victories.