Promotion was never decided in mid-September. Neither were trophies handed out after 7 League games. And yet the game against Blackburn Rovers seems to have so much hanging on it.
Funny enough it has nothing to do with the opposition and more to do with the manager. Aston Villa fans are massively split about the future of manager Steve Bruce. Villa have failed to pick up a win in six games and that was against Yeovil Town in the Carabao Cup.
The pressure to succeed this season is massive. It feels bigger than his two previous failed campaigns as manager. His style of football is also being questioned by more and more. A win over Blackburn is vital or the vultures will continue to circle.
Blackburn were promoted after finishing runners-up in League 1 last season. Their ambition this season – to survive in the Championship. Manager Tony Mowbray will be pleasantly pleased with the start to the season, picking up 9 points from a possible 18. Most notably a very impressive victory over the early in-form side, Brentford.
Rovers are a very good side in the air winning on average 32 aerial duels per game compared to Villa’s 28.8 so it may be a good idea if we look to keep the ball on the floor. As you would expect from a newly promoted side they base their play on their defence. They average the second most tackles per game with 20.7, second to Nottingham Forest with 23.5.
They have former Villa youth defender, Derrick Williams (7.62) in their setup who is also their highest rated player on Whoscored.com. Their top goalscorer is the former Celtic midfielder, Charlie Mulgrew with 3 goals from 6 appearances.
Bruce confirmed today that new loan signing Tammy Abraham will play against Blackburn. Winger Yanik Bolasie will also ‘play some part’ but is not quite ready for 90 minutes at Ewood Park.
Jack Grealish, John McGinn and Alan Hutton are available after picking up knocks before the international break. Scott Hogan is closing in on a return after returning to training 10 days ago but he is still a week or so away while Keinan Davis’ injury is ongoing.
Bradley Dack is expected to return for Blackburn after recovering from a knee injury. Jacob Davenport is a doubt while new recruit Jack Rodwell isn’t ready for first team football yet.
HEAD TO HEAD
Aston Villa edge this one on the all-time record with 72 wins to Blackburn’s 62. 35 games have ended in a draw. The first ever fixture between the two sides finished 6-1 to Villa way back in 1888.
Villa have lost just 1 of their last 7 games against Blackburn. This was their last meeting in 2017 when Blackburn beat Villa 1-0 at Ewood Park.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Predicted Starting XI: Nyland, Hutton, Chester, Jedinak, Tuanzebe, Whelan, McGinn, El-Ghazi, Grealish, Kodjia, Abraham.