Aston Villa’s hopes of securing automatic promotion from the Championship will be severely tested as Steve Bruce’s side face a crucial run of four games over the next two weeks.
Villa had moved into the play-off places after losing just once in 12 games, but a 2-1 defeat at home to Sheffield Wednesday before the international break halted their charge up the table.
The result left Villa sixth in the standings – nine points behind leaders Wolverhampton Wanders.
A trip to QPR on November 18 is next on the agenda, before Sunderland and Ipswich Town visit Villa Park during the following week.
The Villains finish off the run of games with a trip to Leeds United on December 1, and it’s safe to say they need at least eight points from the next two weeks if they’re to stay in the race for automatic promotion.
Villa’s recent record against QPR should give them plenty of confidence, with just one defeat in their last eight meetings seeing them installed as 8/5 favourites with Sun Bets to win the game.
The Midlands side won both fixtures 1-0 last season and they are 13/2 to repeat that scoreline this time around.
QPR have been in excellent form at Loftus Road this season, losing just once in eight matches, and they are available at 17/10 to see off Villa. The draw is priced at 9/4 and that could be the way to play this one.
A point from that game would set Villa up nicely for the visit of Sunderland on November 21. The Black Cats are currently rooted to the foot of the Championship and their recent record against Villa won’t give them any cause for optimism.
Sunderland’s victory at the Stadium of Light back in January was their first in ten meetings between the two teams and it’s difficult to see them taking anything from their trip to Villa Park.
Just one win in 16 games saw manager Simon Grayson sacked after just four months in charge and the club appears incapable of stopping its freefall down the leagues.
The former Villa defender did an excellent at Preston North End and the decision to dump him so quickly is the latest in a long line of questionable moves by the club’s board.
Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich Town are next up on November 25. The Tractor Boys are just two points behind Villa with a game in hand, despite McCarthy coming in for plenty of criticism from the club’s fans.
The Irishman’s sweary rant at supporters after Ipswich beat Burton Albion 2-1 at the end of October didn’t go down well and Villa will hope they can take advantage of the disharmony surrounding their opponents.
Ipswich won 1-0 at Villa Park last season, but the home side are likely to be odds-on favourites to record another victory.
If Villa have picked up at least seven points from those three matches they will be full of confidence for their difficult test at Elland Road on December 1.
Thomas Christiansen’s team have come under fire in recent weeks, but remain on the fringes of the promotion battle in 10th place.
Leeds have lost their last three in the league, but if they can rediscover their early season form this will be a tough fixture for Bruce’s side to get something from.
Villa lost 2-0 on their last trip to Elland Road back in December and a point here would be a satisfactory result.
Wolves are currently 4/6 favourites to win the title, with Villa on offer at 14/1. A minimum of eight points from their next four matches would certainly keep them in the running as the season approaches the halfway mark.
It took about 85 minutes at Hillsborough on August 7th last year for confirmation that returning to the Premier League at the first attempt was more likely to not happen that the other way around, and what followed in the months ahead was a pretty underwhelming first part of the season, a really awful Christmas and January, a promising run from mid-Feb to mid-April followed by a whimpering finish to the season which, for the fans, became more about trying to relegate Birmingham.
The team seemed to be following suit on the pitch too with a poor loss to now relegated Blackburn following another Gabby Agbonlahor derby winner against the enemy. It’s not all doom and gloom though, there are some decent players in the dressing room and the few that aren’t so good will hopefully be shown the door. The manager needs to improve in my opinion but he deserves more time and another crack at a summer transfer window. We can currently be backed at 3/1 to win next year’s Championship with several bookies (register following these instructions) so here’s a trio of players that we could be seeing coming through the door to help us achieve that aim.
Been on loan at Villa Park from Manchester United since January and has racked up 20 appearances in the first team (Forcing Pierluigi Gollini out on loan to Atalanta) and been a big positive in the second half of Villa’s season. Not going to be getting many chances at Man Utd in the near future and you’d like to think he’d be very happy to join the Villans.
Been a revelation at relegated Sunderland this season and is clearly still a potent weapon even at his advanced age. Bigger teams than Villa may be looking to snap him up but it’s worth having your hat in the ring for a player who would easily score 20 goals in the Championship next year, bring a lot to the changing room, and would cost relatively little.
Seems destined to be one of those players who is very good in the Championship but doesn’t get a look in at Premier League level. Featured in just 11 games this season for Middlesbrough and the longest he spent on the pitch was 22 minutes! His goal the other day was his first for a very long time and shouldn’t stop him from strongly considering dropping down a division to progress his career. As far as Villa are concerned, he shouldn’t cost the earth and would surely do well again in a league where he has prospered before.