It was yet another SkyBet Championship game and yet another league win for Aston Villa on Saturday against our Steve Bruce’s Sheffield Wednesday side and although Villa left it late they were good value for the 3 points and Villa are now on a 6 game winning run and unbeaten in 7 with only the losses at home to Brentford and WBA in early February slightly tainting that record.
Given thatVilla were outside the playoffs and that things looking a tad shaky, especially after losing Jack Grealish for a period of time through injury, Dean Smith and his squad have really kicked on and now find themselves in 6th position in the league 2 points clear of 7th place Middlesbrough and 2 points shy of Bristol City, who Villa will play on Saturday, taking 19 points out of a possible 21 - playoff form indeed.
As I have mentioned already, Villa are on a great run at the moment having won the last 6 games and scoring at an incredible rate of 2.66 goals per game but the same cannot be said for Rotherham who have struggled all season in the Championship and who currently sit in the relegation places in 22nd position but only a point behind Reading in 21st. Rotherham have only won 7 games all season at The New York Stadium scoring just the 29 goals and conceding 31 which is partly responsible for their -25 goal difference. They currently have conceded 68 goals with an xGA (Expected Goals Against) of 65.42 so they have conceded 3.42 more goals than we would have expected to see given the chances their opponents have had.
Rotherham boss Paul Warne was happy to say the least after his side managed to beat Notts Forest 2-1 in the last game and considering their last win before that was against 3-2 Blackburn in early March its understandable he was happy, possibly relieved even.
Villa have not lost in the last 4 meetings between the sides stretching back to 2013. And interestingly Villa didn’t concede in any of those games and have never scored less than 2 goals with two 2-0 wins and two 3-0 wins with the last meeting ending up 0-2 to Villa the three points coming courtesy of a Will Vaulks own goal and a Jonathan Kodjia goal.
Probable lineups and injury news
Rotherham manager Paul Warne has fitness concerns over full backs Joe Mattock and Billy Jones after both had to be taken off against Forest on Saturday although the former Warne said in his press conference, should be fit to play. The latter however will not, so Clarke Robertson may well deputise for either. Will Vaulks will be expected to keep his place after his return from injury with Michael Smith expected to keep out the returning Kyle Vassell up front for Rotherham.
Villa have little injury concerns although Smith may well look to change things due to the game against Bristol City on Saturday coming. Adomah for El Ghazi maybe, Hourihane or even Bjarnason for Whelan these could be changes Smith may look to make. Kortney Hause will miss out, so we’ll likely see Axel Tuanzebe step in.
Rotherham are 2nd in the aerial duels rankings according to WhoScored.com and are pretty strong in the air so although Villa have strengths at set pieces, I think its best that Dean Smith comes up with some alternate set piece routines- especially from corners as I feel Rotherham will be able to deal with the high balls into the box. For example, maybe trying some variations on short corners to perhaps either change the angles of attack or type of delivery into the box or maybe even working the ball into areas for cut backs?
Rotherham are weak down the flanks and with Villa having excellent pace in wide areas this is where I think Villa can really hurt them. Tellingly they do not deal with balls threaded through between their full backs and centre backs so with the pace of El Ghazi/Green/Adomah there is a weakness to exploit for sure and with injuries to both first choice full backs Joe Mattock (who may well be fit in time) and Billy Jones surely the Villa wingers will be licking their lips.
Rotherham will take the game to Villa and the fans will get behind them but I think Villa’s attacking threat will prove too much for the home side so an away win is most definitely my prediction for this evening’s game, 0-2.
By Gareth Cooper - gcanalytics.net