With three wins in three outings, Villa once again find themselves in with a shout for promotion with nine games remaining. Is it possible? Probable? A bridge too far? All depends, doesn’t it.

There’s only one thing Villa can do to help themselves: keep winning. Beyond that, since we’re making up ground, it’s also up to the results around us. Basic stuff. Helping matters was that there wasn’t that much ground to make up, and a nearly full-strength Villa side finally have come back together just in time to face Derby, blues, and Forest—all clubs sitting above us. Must-win six-pointers. Now there’s another this afternoon against Middlesbrough.

Six-pointers are certainly what you want at this stage for obvious reasons. Instead of going out and beating Ipswich and hoping Boro lose to Bolton, you have the chance to make sure Derby lose. Making up ground is firmly in your hands.

And while it’s all well and good to be looking up the table, it’s the Championship. Which means there are others always nipping at your heels. Win, and it doesn’t matter. Lose, and naturally you’re left to hoping other results go your way. But when you’re chasing, you’ve got to win a higher percentage of the remaining matches than the teams you’re chasing.

That’s the obvious out of the way. Well, not quite. What’s also obvious is that we’re looking to either pip Boro or Derby to the post for 5th or 6th spot. Derby have had the weaker form of late, and they both face a similar strength of schedule based on the average position of teams left on their upcoming fixtures. Both will play Bolton, who are all but down, and both have a game with an opponent (Reading and Rotherham, respectively) that will be staving off relegation.

In the short-term, though, it’s Boro who have the tougher run starting with us today, then top-of-the-table Norwich, and Bristol. After that, everyone’s basically playing mid-table teams, and you have no idea what’s going to happen.

Our run-in isn’t terrible, but of course everyone’s pointing to Leeds and Norwich at the end. So we’re all hoping Leeds get back up into the automatic spots before we play them. Doesn’t necessarily make things easier, but if they’re through by the time we play both of them, there’s the obvious question of motivation. We’d like one to have a firm grip on the top spot, and the other to be in no danger of dropping from second. Leeds losing to Sheffield United wasn’t a great bit of news, then.

Based on the fact Villa are once again looking like the steamroller we saw before the injuries hit, there’s obviously reason for hope. Being Villans, we’re also braced for crushing disappointment. I suppose it helps that this is a rather late ray of hope, meaning most of us were getting used to the idea of not staying in the mix.

It also helps that Boro and Derby have been wobbly of late, and a win today will likely put the nerves into them. Villa, just three matches ago looking out of it, have the psychological advantage of being underdogs with a distinctly non-underdog side.

And if we do find ourselves in the play-offs, we’ll have been on a very good run, and I wouldn’t bet against us. There’s really no one above us we can’t beat on our day. I’d like to think that will be an inspiration.

So it’s a big game today. Going in, it’s our last chance to take points off a team currently sitting where we’d like to be and leapfrog into the playoff spots going into the break since Derby aren’t playing. As for Bristol, one point above us, who knows where they’ll be by the time we play them.

Dean Smith has made just one change from the side that dispatched Forsest 3-1 midweek, with Whelan in for Hourihane. Fingers crossed we’ve got enough in the tank to see us over the line today.

Comments 72

  1. PW- Don’t really fear any team with a full side its just the hope derby don’t recover their midfield, they haven’t got the worst run in but the way they are going? Can’t see Bristol winning many its the like of PNE and Sheff weds that can sneak in or damage top 6 teams that will be interesting, we can only hope to continue to win game at a time.

  2. IanG…

    yeah, just looked like he’s trying to do a bit too much sometimes, not the best decision-making. Think Jack’s looking a bit tired, as well.

  3. He was down behind the goal, came off limping. On the bench, though, so doesn’t seem too serious. Wouldn’t mind him not going out on duty over the break.

  4. If I was Dean Smith I’d take them all on a last minute deal to lanzerote, amazingly we have a lot on internationals that might not get a break.

  5. The Villa roller coaster keeps chugging along. Gave up on this season and now we’re beating higher placed teams at a stroll. Doing things the hard/Villa way

  6. Well . . . . . that makes for an interesting run in!
    John McGinn commented during the week about us needing to keep focus and not becoming over-confident. We’ve seen before that it’s no good beating the top sides if you then get complacent and lose to the ‘lesser’ sides.

    Apart from Leeds and Norwich we also have Bristol City ( with 2 games in hand) and Sheffield Wednesday ( who have won 5 drawn 5 since Bruce joined them)

  7. I don’t like the international break’s timing, going to upset our momentum. Last few years we could never continue good form post the break and we don’t have any leeway right now.

    Defence looks a lot better though, who thought Taylor and Elmo were the answer

  8. Tammy May have a hamstring niggle, Davis could well be his natural replacement if the time off isn’t enough I’m thinking. I think either the season is weighing on Tammy or he’s had a niggle for a while. All things considered the break could be a big blessing. Freshens the midfielders and gives us options In Lansbury, tuenzabe and maybe Chester.

    Smith sticking with Steer but the other keeper must’be thinking he’s only had a couple of shots to save 🙂

  9. Yeah, all in all, I think we might need some rest more than we need to play another game. Derby and Bristol were off, so they’d have been fresher anyway going into a game next week.

    With Abraham’s knock, Jack just coming back and playing three in a week…Might be the right be the right time for a breather. Couple weeks off certainly did McGinn some good.

    And like Mark says, maybe gives Tuanzebe a shot to slot in for the run-in.

  10. Plug,

    It really is nice to see us keep playing for more. Boro came back into a bit as they “chased” the game (very relative when talking about Boro), though they obviously didn’t cause much bother, and Villa were always looking to take advantage.

    When you can play a full 90 and still be creating toward the end when you’re cruising…very good for the players’ psychology. And naturally, very nice to see AEG and Adomah getting involved, and McGinn bagging another.

  11. Villalore,

    It’s been a funny one. I know Mark or someone, linked to a comment about Jack’s presence letting the FBs stay back more…along with two physical, mobile CBs, seems to be working out pretty well.

  12. Just watched the highlights and either we are incredible or boro played their walking football side. Wheelan had acres to work in and I’m dubbing Steer “the magnet” as every shot lately is straight at him.

    Reminded me of the Harlem globetrotters exhibition games.

    Much sterner tests to come where teams will press us too, I just hope we are as good as we look. I agree with Smith we really should of scored more.

  13. IanG- Not sure whether to say bless you or not?

    Maybe teams should be given the option to post the points or even email to save time and money?

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