Aston Villa will take the field today against the visiting Rams in front of a sellout crowd for the final regular-season home game of the campaign. I’m glad about the crowd. It’s been a rough few years that’s tested the supporters and strained ties for many with the club, so a full house is no small thing. If nothing else, the season has been exciting, full of ups and downs, and more entertaining than any in recent memory.
Match-wise, we’ll see what looks to be Bruce’s side of choice now. John Terry is back, Albert Adomah and Robert Snodgrass return after getting a rest last week, Lewis Grabban stays up top, and Neil Taylor is apparently none the worse for wear. The only exception is Birkir Bjarnason, who has a calf strain. Glenn Whelan is in for him. Axel Tuanzebe won’t be ready to go, either, but he’s quickly become a trivia footnote for the season. Johnathan Kodjia was back training, as was Alan Hutton, so Bruce basically has everyone at his disposal in one way or another.
Derby boss Gary Rowett pretty much told us what to expect: Raise the physicality, don’t give Villa space, and shut Grealish down. If there’s a book on us, that’s it.
So if Derby do as asked, Villa will have to play through a lot of pressure. My guess is that’s what we can expect in each of our remaining games, so here’s to hoping we handle it well.
Permutations for final placings abound. We could still finish second, however it’s a remote possibility that requires Fulham falling apart. I won’t give up hope until it’s gone, but I’m more realistically looking at who’s in third through sixth, and where we’d like to be sitting and playing first.
Main thing today and next week, as said before, is the performance and how we look and feel going into the playoffs. While the game may well be meaningless since we’re already in the playoffs, I still think we can do ourselves favors by treating it like the playoffs have begun.
We’ll see what we get.