When the fixture lists come out every year, there is one fixture that grabs the attention of every fans straight away. The local derby. For Liverpool fans, it’s Everton. For Celtic, it’s Rangers. For Aston Villa? The age-old rivalry with Birmingham City. It’s the most awaited match of the season and it is time to do battle once again.
Battle is probably the right word to describe some of the matches between these two in the past. There are memorable moments all over the shop. Gary Cahill’s overhead kick. Peter Enckelman fluffing his kick. Dion Dublin dropping the nut on Robbie Savage. All of these things have happened in a second city derby. What does Sunday have in store for us?
For Villa, the recent international break came at the worst possible time. A 3-0 victory away to Derby County felt like a complete performance from Dean Smith’s men and a real reward for the hard work that was put in during his first month in charge. It was the best possible way to go into a derby game, but then the dreaded international break happened and boy, the injuries are piling up.
Birkir Bjarnason has still not shaken off his knock and then John McGinn pulled out of the Scotland squad with an injury. James Chester was the next one to fall foul of the international injury curse. It’s left Dean Smith with a few worries.
“It’s still a bit early for Chester and McGinn to be fully assessed, but I’m hopeful that both of them will be okay,” Smith told the club’s official website.
“We’ll be leaving it late to make a decision on both of them, but they won’t have lost any fitness. Chester played 50 minutes for Wales and McGinn has featured in a lot of games for us.
“They’re naturally fit players, but I’ll need them on the training ground on Friday and Saturday for assessment.”
That doesn’t sound too promising, but when I talk about the teams later, just know I’m assuming they are okay to play.
Let’s get back to the interesting bit though. It’s Aston Villa vs. Birmingham City. It’s the one game that truly matters to some fans. It’s so important that the result is positive in this one and Dean Smith will know that more than anyone. It’s time for the lions to stand up and roar.
As we are aware, Villa have got injury worries but Smith will be keen not to change too much from the side that dismantled Derby. Yannick Bolasie will be expecting to start after yet another impressive substitute performance, while Anwar El Ghazi is still looking for a way back in. If Chester isn’t fit, you have to think someone like Mile Jedinak may start at centre-back. I know. I shuddered too.
Predicted starting line-up to play Birmingham City: Nyland; Hutton, Tuanzebe, Chester, Taylor; Adomah, Grealish, Hourihane, McGinn, Bolasie; Abraham
THE NUMBERS THAT MATTER
- Villa are unbeaten in six derby games, but the last loss was THAT Carling Cup semi-final defeat at St. Andrews in 2010.
- Expect goals on Sunday. There have been only three goalless draws in this fixture for the last 15 years, going back 18 encounters.
- Villa have conceded just once against Birmingham in the last five meetings, so a clean sheet is a key to victory.
Written by Kyle Dixon (@kyledixon95)
Picture Credit: Aston Villa