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Preview: Villa host Birmingham in the Second City derby

It’s time. Villa and Blues are set to meet for the first time in five seasons — and I’m not sure it couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Villa.

Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

For the first time in five seasons, Aston VIlla are playing their true derby.

Birmingham City come to Villa Park tomorrow for the Capital One Cup third round, and right now, it seems like it couldn’t come at a worse time for the Claret and Blues. Let’s get to it.

What to know about Villa

God. Do I really have to think about this?

Aston Villa are on the verge of becoming a complete tyre fire, and a loss tomorrow to a Championship side would seal that really well. Despite being the more-talented side at the weekend, Villa hardly got a grip in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to West Bromwich Albion, and that was off the heels of blowing a 2-0 lead.

There’s not one thing Villa consistently do poorly — the attack worked well against Leicester, the defense (generally) against WBA — but there’s a worrying overall trend coming that Tim Sherwood is out of his depth tactically at this level. His puzzling substitution and tactical decisions have persisted over the course of the season, and it’s worrying, considering Villa could easily be in the top four, rather than the bottom four.

As far as tomorrow’s derby goes, I’d consider looking to Rudy Gestede if I were in charge of the Villa lineup. He hasn’t shown himself well since the opening day win over Bournemouth, but he wrecked all over the Championship last year. I’d give him the go, as he can be a big threat for Villa when on form.

Adama Traoré and Idrissa Gueye are both out for the Claret and Blues, so perhaps Sherwood will bring Jordan Veretout into the squad for this one — the pairing of Carlos Sánchez and Ashley Westwood didn’t work too well Saturday, so something different might be nice.

Jordan Ayew should get a chance too, though maybe at Anfield against Liverpool at the weekend rather than tomorrow — at the end of the day, you spent good money on him and Veretout, and nobody currently in the squad’s performed well enough to make them a shoe-in for the XI, perhaps aside from Carles Gil and Jack Grealish. Give them a chance, Tim — an extended one — because what you’re trying now isn’t working.

What to know about Blues

Oh, fun.

Blues look like they’re a good Championship side — despite having a match in hand, they sit seventh in the table early in the year, and have lost just once, a 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest on 15 September.

Right now, you could make a pretty solid case they’re playing better than Villa are, and that’s a little terrifying. Gary Rowett has done a good job at St. Andrew’s, and Clayton Donaldson leads them with three goals in seven after scoring 15 last season.

But here’s the thing: despite how well Blues are generally playing, they’re still a Championship side.

At the end of the day, Villa will put a starting XI out there tomorrow where they have the 11 most-talented players on the pitch, and that’s why there’s no excuse for losing this game. Even against the lesser Premier League sides, there’s still players capable of beating you — if Villa lose this game, it’s because they beat themselves, not because City beat them.

The prediction

No odds this week because it’s the Cup.

I’m dreading this game. There’s a huge opportunity for Villa to suffer its most embarrassing defeat in ages, and to close out the worst 10 days this club has seen in a long period of time.

But at the end of the day, the quality has to step up sometime in this squad. A win could save the season, and against a lesser opponent, Tim’s tactics hurt us less. Jack Grealish and Joleon Lescott both step up with goals, and Gabby snags the third to complete the all-Villa boy trio to lead the Claret and Blues to victory.

Prediction: Aston Villa 3, Birmingham City 1