Aston Villa have had a solid summer. The new owner is doing all the right things, the new coaches making all the right moves, and the new players so far seem to be performing up to expectations. But be it luck or error, things haven't quite clicked on the pitch for the Villans.
Gollini's misfortune/error (however you want to look at it) against Huddersfield, and both Ross McCormack and Gary Gardner cracking the woodwork against Derby are the moments separating Villa's current 12th place position from two more victories, and the 2nd place position that they would have afforded Villa. Of course, you can't really look at things this way, but so far, the results haven't necessarily reflected the performances.
And that has to change.
Sunday's game sees Aston Villa head to Ashton Gate, to face Bristol City. It's the last game before the international break, and you know what, heading into that break with an extra three points will be huge for morale, both on and off the pitch. But, before we look forward, check out what happened the last time the two sides met.
The last time we met
1982 was a good year for Aston Villa. 10th place in the League was solid, if not spectacular, sure. A loss to Tottenham in the FA Cup 5th round was average, though a draw against the same side earlier in the season gave Villa possession of the FA Charity Shield for six months of the year. But of course, all of that pales in comparison to the fact that Aston Villa won the actual European Cup!
Qualifying for the European Cup the season after winning the League, Aston Villa bested Valur, Dynamo Berlin, Dynamo Kiev, Anderlecht, and finally Bayern Munich to lift the trophy, thanks to THAT goal from Peter Withe.
There was just one drawback to this success. In a season during which Aston Villa achieved the unthinkable, their FA Cup 4th round clash against Bristol City has essentially been lost in time. A small price to pay sure, but for the purpose of this piece, it is a disaster. Not really, it is a bit of a shame that limited information from the game exists.
Here is what we know:
Aston Villa won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Gary Shaw, the man who scored three during the European cup run.
That is all we know.
I can't even find the full lineup list. But hey, a win is a win. And I'd take a 1-0 win this time around.
Bristol City this season
Bristol's fixtures list is a bit weird looking at it. Their campaign started off against two newly promoted sides in Burton Albion and Wigan Athletic. Two straightforward wins for Lee Johnson's side. This was followed up by a trio of games against the three sides just relegated from the Premier League; Norwich, Newcastle and us, of course. To be fair to Bristol, they didn't do too badly, losing 1-0 in both games. Very early in the season of course, but this leaves them in a respectable mid table position.
Bristol's results actually put Aston Villa under a bit of pressure. Villa are going to want to keep pace with the other promotion contenders, and seeing how both Norwich and Newcastle won this fixture, Villa ideally, will want to follow. That won't necessarily be straightforward.
Teenager and Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham has scored three in his first four games for the club, and looks to be a dangerous player. Alongside perennial Villa transfer target* Jonathan Kodjia and former Bournemouth player Lee Tomlin, Bristol City have goals in them. At the other end of the pitch, the Bristol defence looks relatively pedestrian. Aside from Adam Matthews, there is no Premier League experience, and hopefully, Aston Villa's attack will prove to be too much for them. My prediction is that neither defence will keep a clean sheet.
*Allegedly. Dr. Tony is yet to debunk this one, at least!
Aston Villa have, to be fair, made a good start to the season, considering the degree of upheaval that the club has been through. But now comes the crunch time. The time to convert positivity into points. With the international break coming up after this fixture, Villa will want to enter the break on a high note, and a win here would be perfect. Following the break is a couple of winnable games, before the late September crunch match against Newcastle. Entering this match on the front foot is imperative. It could be the difference between promotion and, well, not getting promotion. But first, beat Bristol City. Simple. Right?