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AVFC v SWFC: Villa seek to stay in fine form despite injury concerns

Aston Villa could be without a few key players as Sheffield Wednesday visits Saturday, but the squad’s depth means it might not be a big deal.

Burton Albion v Aston Villa - Sky Bet Championship
BURTON-UPON-TRENT, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 26: Robert Snodgrass of Aston Villa celebrates scoring his team's 3rd goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Burton Albion and Aston Villa at Pirelli Stadium on September 26, 2017 in Burton-upon-Trent, England.
Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Villa are set to conclude this round of fixtures with a third match in seven days Saturday, welcoming Sheffield Wednesday to Villa Park. The Claret and Blues sit fifth in the table, and given second-place Cardiff City visit fourth-place Bristol City this weekend, Villa are guaranteed to either (a) sit fourth or (b) close the gap to the top two (if not both!) with a win this weekend.

What to know about Aston Villa

Last time out, the Claret and Blues notched a 2-0 win away to Preston North End, moving to fifth in the table after the penultimate match before the international break. Robert Snodgrass and Josh Onomah were both huge for Villa, but the duo might miss out for Saturday’s fixture, as both picked up knocks at Deepdale. Jonathan Kodjia is an injury doubt, too, but Villa should otherwise be able to field any first-choice player it wants to.

The positive, of course, of the injury situation is that Villa have solid depth across the board, and Onomah’s injury could allow Jack Grealish to make a return to the Villa team, if not the starting XI. Grealish has run out three times now for the U23 side, and in the most recent 6-0 win over Newcastle, set up a trio of Villa goals. Grealish isn’t the only man pushing for first-team time, though: Callum O’Hare could be in the squad for Saturday’s fixture, while Henri Lansbury is striding toward a return to full fitness and might also make the team.

If Kodjia, Onomah and Snodgrass all can’t go, Steve Bruce can make minor tweaks and still run a good team out there, moving Alan Hutton back to his natural right back position, sliding Ahmed Elmohamady up the right wing, and deploying Neil Taylor at left back. Grealish coming in for Onomah would then complete the changes to the 4-3-3. Villa could also choose to play 4-4-2, though, and instead replace Onomah with striker Scott Hogan -- Bruce would also have the option to keep the back four the same and play Grealish wide on the left instead of centrally.

We haven’t even talked about Mile Jedinak, who’s done well off the bench in successive fixtures. Glenn Whelan is playing really well right now, so it’s always possible Bruce starts both in a 4-3-3 formation, with Conor Hourihane pushed up into the attacking midfield slot.

What to know about Sheffield Wednesday

Wednesday have had a bit of a slow start to the season, and sit just 14th a third of a way through a season that was meant to be a promotion charge. They could still run down the play-off spots — the Owls got off to a slow start last year, too, and still managed to finish in the top six — but they’ll need to start picking up points quickly.

Jordan Rhodes finally broke a long drought last time out when he scored his first league goal since March, so expect to see the talented striker in the team for Wednesday; Gary Hooper, though, has been the main man up top, with seven goals to his credit already. Old friend Barry Bannan will almost certainly start, as the Scottish midfielder has played all but 10 minutes of Wednesday’s league campaign this season.

The odds

Villa are favourites Saturday, carrying 11/10 odds at most bookmakers.

The best odds on Wednesday are out at 14/5, but 5/2 odds seem to be more common.

You can also get the draw somewhere around that same 5/2 mark.

The prediction

Villa are playing really well at the moment, and have played particularly well at home this season. Irrespective of specific personnel, I expect that to continue Saturday. I’ll take a Keinan Davis opener, followed by a Jack Grealish goal on his return to the first team, in a comfortable 2-0 Villa win.