Aston Villa will welcome our fierce rivals Birmingham City to Villa Park for a lunchtime kick-off tomorrow. Dean Smith has impressed since he became Villa boss but this is the ultimate one. This is the one that can get any fans who are still unsure by his appointment. It is not very often that fans will turn a blind eye to the style of football these days. This game is all about one thing. A win and bragging rights.
November was always the month that many stated would dictate our season. A thrilling 0-3 victory over Derby County before the International break gave Villa the start they required to the month.
Villa have picked up 15 points at Villa Park this season so far. Four wins, three draws and just a single defeat to Sheffield Wednesday.
Form goes out the window when derby games are concerned. This game will be no different despite Birmingham’s decent start to the Championship season. Gary Monk has given the Blues fans an opportunity to believe and dream. Could they do the impossible and make a push for the Playoffs despite their off the field issues?
They currently sit 12th in the table, level on points with Villa. 1 goal separates the sides in the table. Their away form isn’t to be sniffed at either. They have lost 33% of their away games so far this season.
Blues will allow Villa to have a lot of the ball and sit deep. They will look to hit Villa on the counter attack at every opportunity. They average just 41.9% of the ball, the lowest in the Championship this season. Their pass completion rate isn’t much better. At 60.5%, again making it the lowest in the division.
ONE TO WATCH
It is no real surprise when I say my one to watch is Lukas Jutkiewicz. The striker has been in sublime form this season and has an average rating of 7.90 with whoscored.com. This is a higher average rating than any Villa player this season.
The 29-year-old former Burnley striker has scored 9 and assisted 3 goals this season. He is currently on course to have his best goal scoring season.
Jutkiewicz will look to get amongst the Villa defence and will try to unsettle them at every opportunity. He will win as many fouls as he gives away. He will be a danger from set pieces an in the air so we must avoid giving away cheap set pieces.
Smith is hopeful that James Chester and John McGinn will be available for selection. Both picked up injuries during the International break and they will be given as long as they need to prove their fitness.
Neil Taylor looks set to be available for selection. The left-back has shaken off an injury that saw him go off against Derby. Birkir Bjarnason has been ruled out because of an ongoing groin issue.
Monk has confirmed that both Jota and Jacques Maghoma will be available.
Gary Gardner is ineligible while Isaac Vassell (hip) and David Davies (ankle) have both been ruled out.
HEAD TO HEAD
The meeting between the two sides will be the 126th Second City derby. Villa have won 55 of those meeting, Birmingham 38 with 33 ending all square.
The first-ever meeting took place in 1887 in the FA Cup. Birmingham was known as Small Heath Alliance then. The game ended in a 4-0 victory to Villa.
Villa have lost just 1 in the last 14 meetings in all competitions between the two teams. In fact, Birmingham have failed to beat Villa in their last seven visits to Villa Park.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Predicted XI: Nyland; Hutton, Chester, Tuanzebe, Taylor; McGinn, Hourihane; Bolasie, Grealish, Adomah; Abraham.
Kick Off: 12.00 (GMT)
TV: Sky Sports Football
Tickets: Sold out
Odds: Aston Villa 5/6 Birmingham 10/3 Draw 5/2 (Sky Bet)