Since the festive fixtures didn’t deliver the breathing room we would’ve wanted, and Watford’s resurgence under Nigel Pearson has not been helpful, we’re really right up against it. But with a win tonight, we’ll have done ourselves a huge favor.
Having announced the team sheet for today’s encounter, Smith is sticking with the 3-4-3 that’s seen us beat Burnley and contain Leicester. Though results were generally favorable yesterday, Watford’s resurgence continued earlier today, and their 3-0 victory over Bournemouth sees Villa come into the match having dropped to 18th, one point behind. Which is to say, the draw that no pundit is predicting would be a very nice point to pick up.
So I talked about draws, and how we weren’t getting enough. We got one last night. Wasn’t easy, but it was hard-earned and well-enough deserved. Finally getting a result from a winning position against a top team on the road is huge, and that’s the real takeaway for me. It should give the players belief, in both the system and themselves.
The Foxes have torn us apart once already, and now we get two extra rounds with them. With points to play for at the weekend, I hate to see such a challenging cup-tie midweek. Be nice if it were Everton, for example. Or Bolton. But it is what it is.
Villa managed to record a vital, but costly, away win at Turf Moor on New Year’s Day, outlasting Burnley 1-2. The match was notable not only for getting us back out of the drop zone and seeing a new formation from Dean Smith, but also sadly for season-ending injuries to Wesley and Tom Heaton. What already looked to be an extremely important window suddenly became even more so.