Since taking over at the helm last October, Steve Bruce’s home record has been pretty solid: Aston Villa have won 41 points from 20 home Championship matches in that time span, a pace that would’ve put Villa among the top six clubs in the division in home form.
But since taking over at Villa, Bruce has struggled mightily away from home — the Claret and Blues finished last season fourth-bottom in away form, as Villa won just 15 points in 17 league away fixtures under Bruce.
That trend, of course, has continued into this season, where Villa have looked good in a home draw against Hull City and superb in a home win over Norwich City, but have looked completely lost away from home against Cardiff City and Reading in incredibly poor defeats. Whether or not Villa seriously contend for promotion, and whether or not Bruce is still managing this team in 12 months, directly depends on results from matches like tomorrow’s.
What to know about Aston Villa
Well, Brucie has a few selection dilemmas on his hands for this one — how does he change the squad that looked so good (well, other than Alan Hutton) in the 4-2 win over Norwich at the weekend? At the same time, how does he leave out Scott Hogan and Albert Adomah after each showed what they can do in the EFL Cup win over Wigan Athletic on Tuesday night?
This is good, and it allows Bruce some flexibility when choosing his team for the trip to Bristol City. Villa can’t necessarily expect to walk into Ashton Gate and boss the match the way they did at home against Norwich; they can certainly try to, but the task is always more difficult away from home.
Under Bruce, Villa have never figured out a terribly repeatable plan for success away from home, so it will be interesting to see how he plays this one. Does he stick with the 4-3-3 that won him plaudits from Villa fans at the weekend? Or could we see him go 3-5-2, get both Hogan and Keinan Davis in the squad, and try to find a tactic that works away from home?
What to know about Bristol City
Nathan Baker’s definitely going to score, isn’t he?
The Robins have made a solid start to the season with one win and two draws in four matches, but their strength of schedule hasn’t been great so far: Barnsley (W), Birmingham City (L), Brentford (D), Millwall (D) is no murderer’s row. It’ll be interesting to see how they get on as they get more into the meat of their fixture list.
Bobby Reid’s early-season displays make him the man to watch for the opposition: the attacking midfielder has five goals in six games already, including an opening-day brace in their 3-1 win over Barnsley.
As far as away sides go, Villa are getting pretty decent odds here. Bristol City are favoured at 6/4 or thereabouts, Villa sit around 2/1, while 9/4 seems to be a common offering for the draw.
Hope. It’s what kills you, right?
Villa look absolutely unstoppable right now, but playing away from home has been this team’s kryptonite since dropping down to the second tier. I’ll go for a 1-1 result, where Keinan Davis’ first goal is cancelled out with a second-half equaliser.