Aston Villa begins there League Cup campaign on Tuesday evening with a trip down to Somerset to face League Two outfit Yeovil Town at Huish Park.
Cup competitions are always a difficult aspect of the season for managers to get right. They walk a fine line between knowing that the fans want a decent cup run but also promotion, they can’t over commit to one or the other but I’m sure that any Villa fan would accept an early exit from the League Cup if it meant a better finish in the league. However, Steve Bruce’s mind will be on leaving Somerset with a win.
Yeovil was knocked out of the EFL Cup in the first round following a 1-0 loss away at Wolves last season. Villa have underachieved in this competition in recent years with the 2012-13 season being the last time Villa made it passed the fourth round.
Last season, Yeovil finished in a disappointing 19th place in League Two and survived the drop by a mere two points. Since they dropped down to League Two after the 2014-15 season where they were relegated after finishing bottom of League One, 19th place is actually Yeovil’s best finish.
The Somerset side are currently sitting in 20th place after a poor start to the season after a 1-0 loss to Bury on the opening day which they followed up with a 2-2 draw against Macclesfield.
Last season, Yeovil’s Ivorian striker, François Zoko finished as their top scorer with 13 goals in the league and 15 in all competitions will face a late fitness assessment to determine whether or not he will be fit to play on Tuesday evening alongside centre back and captain Shaun Donnellan who both limped off in their weekend fixture against Mansfield.
Somerset Live reported that Yeovil will be without “Stuart Nelson (calf), Rhys Browne (hamstring), Jake Gray (ankle) and James Bailey (knee) are all out injured, while Jordan Green is unavailable as he is serving the second of a three-match suspension”.
THE BIG MATCH
The big decision that Bruce will have to make is whether to keep momentum and field a similar side to what he would in a League game, or does he choose to give his fringe and young players a run out.
I would expect that Bruce wouldn’t risk injury to one of our key players such as Jack Grealish, John McGinn, James Chester, Alan Hutton or Andre Green. This may open the door for fringe players to make a stake for a place in the first team.
If Bruce opts to go with a lineup using his fringe players, we could see players like James Bree feature. It is also possible we may see other youngsters played such as Mitch Clark and maybe Jacob Bedeau although they both played 90 minutes against Norwich u23’s last night. It is also likely to be the first chance we get to see our first signing of the season in action in Portuguese under 23 goalkeeper, Andre Moreira, who looks set to be our reserve and cup competition goalkeeper this season.
There will be some interesting decisions that Bruce will have to make. The key one for me is the striker situation. It’s no secret that Jonathan Kodjia has been well below his best for sometime now. The Ivorian set Villa Park alight when he signed for us scoring 19 goals in his debut season. However, do to his terrible injury record, the 28 year-old has netted just once. Many fans are now saying he looks uninterested and lazy which has substance behind it. He didn’t do himself any favours when McGinn put a ball on his head where he only had to guide it into the net from five yard out against Wigan and he somehow found a way to miss.
Step forward Rushian Hepburn-Murphy. One of the brightest prospects to come out of the Villa Academy in recent years, many fans are calling for a starting opportunity for the 19 year -old. Having guided Villa Under 23’s to the Premier League 2 Runner Up, he is certainly deserving of an opportunity at first team football. If Bruce starts with Kodjia and he doesn’t score that would be a huge opportunity wasted for Hepburn-Murphy and would leave a lot of fans frustrated.
Yeovil conceded the equal third most goals last season in League Two letting 75 goals in during there 46 game season whilst scoring 59 themselves leading to them having the 5th worst goal difference in the league of -15. With Villa scoring 6 goals in there opening two league fixtures this season, this could prove to be a very long afternoon for Yeovil’s defence as Steve Bruce will likely field a young, hungry, fresh and energetic side which if they click, have the ability to terrorize most defences at this level.
Aston Villa’s Under 23 squad came out on top in there Monday night clash with Norwich coming out 2-0 winner thanks to a Kelsey Mooney brace.
Noticeably, Hepburn-Murphy, Jake Doyle-Hayes, Corey Blackett-Taylor, Easah Suliman and Harry McKirdy were all left out of the matchday squad indicating that they could have strategically rested to take part in Tuesday evenings clash with Yeovil.
It is understood that promising youngster, Callum O’Hare will miss the game through injury whilst Keinan Davis and Scott Hogan will also be out with groin injuries.