PREVIEW: Bolton at home

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Aston Villa will return to Villa Park this evening for the live Sky Sports game. Bolton Wanderers are the visitors in what will be Dean Smith’s second home game. A lot has been made of Smith’s first full week in training with the squad. There was even an internal friendly which allowed the new head coach to take a look at youngsters and fringe players.

Our start to the season has been unacceptable. Regardless of who the manager is/was, we must do better on a whole. There have been signs of improvement since Smith became the head coach but we will have to improve on that one win in three.

As others have already discussed on the website this week, November is a big month. It could potentially make or break our 2018-19 Championship campaign.

Aston Villa will pay respect before the game against Bolton. The tragedy at Leicester last weekend will coincide with our remembrance day acknowledgements.

THE OPPOSITION

Bolton have started the season as a mixed bag. They sit 19th in the Championship but that doesn’t tell the whole story. They have won four league games so far. They have included wins against the likes of West Brom and Derby County.

In fact, their last win came against Derby at the end of September. They have failed to win a game in 5, during October. Bolton have won 9 of their 16 points this season on the road so Villa will have to be at their best. So where are they strong and what are their weaknesses?

Their biggest weakness is goals. They have scored just 11 goals this season which is the joint worst in the division. The 9.8 shots on goal per game (compared to Villa’s 13.1) will explain that. Their strengths are their aerial ability. They have won more aerial duels (34.9 per game) than any other side in the Championship.

ONE TO WATCH

Mark Beevers is my one to watch in this fixture. As in previous games against the likes of QPR and Millwall, I highlighted that we must keep the ball on the floor and be careful of the long high ball over the top. We lost both those games so I am hoping we have learned from previous experiences.

Beevers has an average rating of 7.28 this season and will look to play long high balls. He is weak at short passing however so we should like to press high and put him under pressure.

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TEAM NEWS

Birkir Bjarnason will miss the game with a groin injury. Better news for Albert Adomah though who has trained all week and will be in contention. Smith has stated that Yannick Bolasie is improving by the day and is pushing for a start. Striker Keinan Davis is closing in on a return also.

Bolton could welcome back Sammy Ameobi following an injury. The forward has trained all week and Phil Parkinson has been impressed. Former Villa midfielder, Stephen Ireland will miss out with a calf injury.

HEAD TO HEAD

Aston Villa and Bolton are both founding members of the Football League. So it is no real surprise when I tell you that they have met on 163 occasions.

Villa edge the head to head battle with 64 wins to Bolton’s 60. The away side have edged the encounters more recently. Villa has won just 2 in the last 7 meetings between both sides.

Last season when the two sides met, the home side won 1-0 on both occasions.

The first-ever meeting took place in 1988. Villa beat Bolton 3-2 in the old Division One.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Predicted XI: Nyland; Elmohammady, Tuanzebe, Chester, Taylor; McGinn, Hourihane; Adomah, Grealish, Bolasie; Abraham.

Kick off: 19.45 (GMT)
TV: Sky Sports Football
Tickets: Estimated 31,000.
Odds: Villa 9/20 Draw 15/4 Bolton 7/1 (Bet Victor)

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