Aston Villa will come face to face with former manager Steve Bruce today, fresh off the back of 5 wins on the bounce and unbeaten in 6 games. Sheffield Wednesday are themselves on a run that has seen them unbeaten in 11 with 3 wins in the last six games and in that time jumping from a relegation threatening 18th position in the league to 11th. It should provide a very stern test for Dean Smith’s men who will not only face a side that have found some form at the right time in the season, but also a former manager who will be looking to silence the Villa Park critics after his time at the club ended on a sour note.
Sheffield Wednesday - P6 W3 D3 L0 GF9 GA3
Aston Villa - P6 W5 D1 L0 GF14 GA3
Wednesday are not fluent goal scorers by any means and the recent 4-2 win at home to Blackburn is the best it has gotten for them, but winning games by a two goal margin has been quite common with wins away at Bolton and at home to Brentford in late February and early March respectively. Steven Fletcher is still their top scorer with 9 league goals. With Wednesday only 4 points behind Villa a win for both sides is vitally important.
Aston Villa do not have a problem in scoring goals with 14 coming in just the last 6 games with a 4-0 win at home to Derby, an excellent 0-1 victory at St Andrews, another superb win away at Forest ending 1-3, a 3-0 win at home to Tony Pulis’ Middlesbrough side and finally a 2-1 win at home to Blackburn last weekend. Tammy Abraham is still scoring regularly and is on 22 league goals for the season so far with a little help from Conor Hourihane, who also has 6 assist this season, and Jonathan Kodjia who have chipped in with 6 a piece.
Head-to-Head @ Hillsborough:
Sheffield Wednesday v Aston Villa - P3 W1 D0 L2
Aston Villa at Sheffield Wednesday - P3 W2 D0 L1
Villa have won only 2 of the last 3 meetings away at Wednesday with the last being a 2-4 victory with goals from Lewis Grabban, Glenn Whelan, Conor Hourihane and Robert Snodgrass in February last year.
Wednesday are on a roll in the league at home having won 4 out of the last six games but Villa are performing just as well away from home as they at Villa Park and will be going to Hillsborough full of confidence and as much as Bruce will be desperate to beat his former employers Villa will be just as keen to show their former boss what has changed under Dean Smith since the change in manager.
Probable Lineups & Team News:
Wednesday have fitness concerns over Gary Hooper, Fernando Forestieri and Sam Winnall but the trio have all trained this week and could be in contention to start against Villa but Rolando Aarons is still unavailable.
Dean Smith has no fresh injury concerns and worries over Jack Grealish by some are premature as he is fit and ready to play. I would expect one change to the Wednesday side that started the game against Stoke City with Steven Fletcher coming in for Gary Hooper up front. Villa should remain unchanged with Glenn Whelan keeping his place in the side ahead of fellow Irishman Hourihane.
The importance of trying to push Adam Reach and George Boyd as far back into their own half when defending will be a key area in Villa trying to get a result.
With Wednesday probably lining up in a 4-4-2 shape and Villa in their now familiar 4-1-4-1 we could well see a fairly evenly matchup in wide areas but it is the roles of both Jack Grealish and John McGinn that could define how well Villa get on in the final third. Neil Taylor and Ahmed El Mohamady need to push up as high as possible and try to create an overload on their respective flanks to allow El Ghazi or Andre Green to come inside this scenario could then allow Grealish or McGinn to burst into the areas shown by the arrows above and provide some ammunition for Tammy Abraham. It could be the case that when Villa are attacking on one side the opposite full back withdraws to a deeper defensive position to thwart any potential counter attack from Wednesday.
Whatever happens it will be exciting to see how the Villa new midfield (Grealish) gets on against the Villa old midfielder (Bannan) with the latter still performing well and the former also in good form.
Gareth Cooper - gcanalytics.net