Sunday’s Second City derby truly was a day for the ages. A Jack Grealish diving header, an Alan Hutton wonder goal and a very annoyed Craig Gardner are moments that will forever be remembered. However, as hard as it may seem, it’s time to move on as the important games just keep on coming.
Welcoming Nottingham Forest to the B6 fortress is never easy, but with Forest have a good season and looking a real threat under Aitor Karanka, this game is a must not lose for Villa’s promotion chances.
One thing that was clear at full-time on Sunday: while the result was fantastic, the performance was not. Villa badly missed John McGinn. Think about the amount of times in which James Chester, Neil Taylor or Axel Tuanzebe gave the ball away in a bad position. That happens a hell of a lot less when you have McGinn offering himself as a passing option. His return on Wednesday is a huge boost for Villa.
Smith himself was not happy with the performance. He said: “Certainly in the first 30 minutes we didn’t play the way we wanted. We were too slow and didn’t break their lines quick enough. Then we showboated a bit and gave it away cheaply for their goal, before we got the cushion.
“I expected the first 10 minutes to be frantic. But we got carried away a little bit in the game. We were too slow on the ball and played in front of them, which is one of the things we spoke about not doing. We needed to build up as a three and didn’t move it quick enough, or get between their lines and slide balls through.”
Villa have injury issues and even Smith made a joke about the medical department “working overtime” after the Blues game. McGinn should be back fit, but Henri Lansbury, Mile Jedinak and James Bree are all struggling. Meanwhile, Birkir Bjarnason was deemed not ready on Sunday so it’s unlikely that he will be back for Forest on Saturday.
Furthermore, Yannick Bolasie started on the bench yet again against Birmingham, but it proved to be a masterstroke by Smith after Albert Adomah’s two assists in the first–half. The battle between those two (and a currently absent Anwar El Ghazi) might just be the most exciting part of Villa’s team right now.
Predicted Aston Villa line-up to play Nottingham Forest: Nyland; Hutton, Tuanzebe, Chester, Taylor; McGinn, Hourihane, Grealish; Adomah, Abraham, Kodjia
THE NUMBERS THAT MATTER
- Villa have lost just one of their last twelve competitive games against Nottingham Forest, which goes back to 1994.
- This set of fixtures is the only one in the Championship season which pits former European champion against European champion.
- Forest are unbeaten in their last five league games and have kept a clean sheet in their last three matches.
Written by Kyle Dixon (@kyledixon95)
IMAGE CREDIT: AVFC