Short answer, it might. Given the differences in squad depth and fitness, Villa will inevitably field a weaker side than the one that lost to Chelsea 0-3 just over a week ago. Smith has said all the right things about the quality available to both sides, and how they both want to win and progress. But it’s clear that Villa will have one hand tied behind their back.
I think this can be a tidy side. There was slick passing and interplay. Villa weren’t slow on the ball. Good positional reading, combativeness, and energy. What Villa look like with a preferred (and very much debated) starting XI is beginning to look appetizing.
Fresh off Villa’s opening win Monday, we’re right back to the League, er Carabao, Cup, traveling to Ashton Gate to take on Bristol City, who sit second in the Championship having won their first two.
Six left, and the one up tonight is a real banana-skin. Rotherham, bang in the middle of the relegation fight, are not going to roll over meekly, and certainly not at home. And Villa, sitting sixth, have little room for error. Which is a bit harsh after six wins in a row. But that’s how it is when you go on a late run.
Back-to-back wins, and suddenly Villa have a viable if tenuous path to the playoffs. Whether or not we get there, there’s still nothing more satisfying in a regular-season context than doing the double on the clowns at home. Now a win at The City Ground seems rather important.