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Preview: Villa really need a win against Norwich City

Aston Villa have one point from three to start the season, and any longer they struggle, the more difficult it is to mount a serious automatic promotion push.

Aston Villa v Norwich City - Sky Bet Championship
BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 01: Jacob Murphy of Norwich City is tackled by Conor Hourihane of Aston Villa during the Sky Bet Championship match between Aston Villa and Norwich City at Villa Park on April 1, 2017 in Birmingham, England.
Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

Tomorrow is 19 August, and Aston Villa are running head-first into what sure feels like a must-win match against Norwich City. Lovely.

What to know about Aston Villa

Ugh. That’s all.

It will be interesting to see how Steve Bruce sets Villa up now that they’re finally back on home ground after three consecutive away matches. Will he actually let his team attack and get on the front foot, like they did so well in the first half against Hull City, or will he revert back to boring, negative football to try and grind out the result Villa so desperately need? I’m of the belief that a good, attack-minded approach is the best way to get the three points; Norwich are too good to try and grind out a 1-0 against.

Bruce has a lot of options for his XI, and those have been strengthened with three men striving to make the squad: Ahmed Elmohamady has ruled himself fit, Scott Hogan could bounce straight back in after tweaking his ankle at Reading, and most importantly, Mile Jedinak could be fit for this one. Obviously, it’s huge news if the defensive midfielder can go — Villa are still yet to win without him in the XI since his arrival nearly a year ago.

Aside from Sam Johnstone in net, Neil Taylor at left back and James Chester at centre back, you could make a case for squad rotation anywhere else. I’d like to think the manager will give Conor Hourihane another game after grabbing the lone goal at Reading, while Josh Onomah should be one of the first names on the team sheet — if Jedinak is fit, those three would make a particularly exciting central midfield group. André Green is the likely answer at left wing again, but perhaps Albert Adomah works his way back into the XI instead? He has featured down the left before. Could Bruce actually play James Bree in a league match for once?

What to know about Norwich City

Norwich have been better than their 1-1-1 start would indicate — they drew away to Fulham on the opening day of the season, a great result, and were a bit unlucky in the 3-1 home defeat on matchday 2 to Sunderland. The Canaries outshot the Black Cats that day 14-9, held 71 per cent of the ball, and won 13 corners — but only came away with the one single goal.

They were good money for their win midweek, though, drubbing Queens Park Rangers 2-0 at Carrow Road in a match where they put six shots on target.

Make no mistake, this is a really good Norwich side I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see go up. Wes Hoolahan (remember him?) is still going strong at 35, while Nelson Oliveira and Mario Vrančić bossed the match in attack against QPR.

An interesting subplot might be the battle of the midfield loanees: Harrison Reed vs Josh Onomah.

The odds

Villa are “favourites” in this match, but are not necessarily likely to win — your best bet on the Claret and Blues is 29/20, Norwich is as long as 9/4, while the best odds on a draw are at 12/5.

The prediction

I can’t get the scenario that feels all too real out of my head: Villa play well in the first half, but can’t find the back of the net. They come out of the break sluggish, and Norwich make them pay with a couple of goals. Villa claw one back late, but can’t find the equalizer.

Canaries take it, 2-1.