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Preview: Villa return to action as Brentford come to town

Aston Villa are back at it in the Championship this weekend, and three points are near necessary with Brentford in town.

Brentford v Aston Villa - Sky Bet Championship
BRENTFORD, ENGLAND - JANUARY 31: Lasse Vibe of Brentford is challenged by Conor Hourihane of Aston Villa during the Sky Bet Championship match between Brentford and Aston Villa at Griffin Park on January 31, 2017 in Brentford, England.
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Welcome back, Aston Villa.

For us Americans, we’ve entered a glorious time of the year — wake up in the morning every Saturday to catch the football from across the pond, then sit down and be treated to a full day’s worth of American college football, the true greatest sport known to man. It’s fantastic, and (alongside baseball’s postseason next month and gorgeous Midwestern weather) it’s my clear favourite time of the year.

As a result, I’ll probably be watching the Villa tomorrow from some random McDonald’s on the two-hour drive between home and South Bend. Go Irish, Beat Bulldogs.

What to know about Aston Villa

For the first time Saturday, we will expect to see Robert Snodgrass in the Villa squad, and it’ll be really interesting to see how Steve Bruce utilizes the creative player. Snodgrass seems to think his best position is on the right wing, but Villa already have a double-digit-assist right winger they relegate to the bench (what up, Albert Adomah?). I wouldn’t be shocked if Snodgrass ends up more of a No. 10, nor would I be surprised to see Ahmed Elmohamady shift back to right back.

Villa are at home, which means we should expect to see some good attacking play from Villa’s 4-3-3/4-4-1-1/4-5-1/whatever you want to call it; the Claret and Blues attacked well for 60-70 minutes against Hull City to open the season at Villa Park, then did so for damn near 90 against Norwich City in the only league win of the campaign to date.

Mile Jedinak and Jonathan Kodjia were (by far and away) Villa’s two most important players last year, but neither has played a part thus far — judging from the timelines we’ve seen in the press, it seems much more likely Jedinak will be the first of the two to make his 2017–18 debut, and that could come as soon as tomorrow if he passes a fitness test. Glenn Whelan has been alright overall, but it certainly would help to have the Australian defensive midfielder back in the starting XI sometime soon.

What to know about Brentford

Well, this bit would’ve been different two weeks ago, before the Bees went and sold what felt like half their team to Birmingham City. It was really only three guys, but the most notable departure was Jota, who Blues signed for a club-record fee.

It hasn’t been the start Brentford would have been looking for, though, as they sit second-bottom with just two points through the opening five fixtures — and they’ve found a number of different ways to lose the three matches they have. They lost a tight one away to Sheffield United on the opening day, 1-0; then dropped a goal-fest next time out in a 4-3 home defeat to Nottingham Forest; then ran into the “Ipswich are finishing every chance” machine in a 2-0 away loss.

Lasse Vibe is yet to get on the scoresheet this season, something that’s been a problem, and new defensive midfield signing Kamohelo Mokotjo has yet to make a significant mark, as he’s part of a Bees side that has conceded nine goals through five league matches.

While I don’t think Brentford will ultimately have to worry too much about the drop, they certainly aren’t one of the better sides in this division, a big opportunity for a much-needed three points.

The odds

You’re pretty much looking at evens if you want to back Villa for the home win, around 5/2 for the draw, and 3/1 for a Brentford win.

The prediction

Villa have played pretty well at home this season, and Brentford haven’t gotten off to the best start. There’s no excuse for anything shy of three points, and I think Villa put in the necessary performance, turning in a 3-1 win. Give me goals from Keinan Davis, Josh Onomah and my main man, Conor Hourihane.