Aston Villa travel to the Pirelli Stadium in a bid to keep their good run of form. Burton are currently 19th on the Championship table with nine points earned from nine games played. Although there are many reason to be excited as an Aston Villa fan going into this game, make no mistake that Burton will be on full alert to stop Villa in their tracks. Although Burton aren’t the type of team to strike fear in the hearts of opposition, Aston Villa cannot take this game lightly. Steve Bruce needs to make sure his players are focused, ready and driven for this contest. Being unbeaten in six games and winning the last two games is an impressive feat. However, we are all aware at how quickly luck can change in the Championship. Here’s what Aston Villa need to do to make the supporters smile when the day is done.
Through nine games played this season, Burton are averaging a 41% possession rate intertwined with a 66% passing success rate. There are many things that could be said about those unusually low numbers. The first thing that comes to the forefront is that Burton are most likely to be the team to sit back in this fixture. Steve Bruce will not be able to sit his midfield and defence back in Villas’ own half and attempt to play a quick counter-attacking style like we all witnessed against Barnsley. Instead, Burton will be the ones to try breaking out quickly and taking advantage of the lack of pace coming from the Villa centre-backs. As long as Villa don’t get overly frustrated and start misplacing passes in the middle of the park, Burton’s counter-attacking mindset will not be as effective as head coach Nigel Clough would hope.
Speaking of Nigel Clough, the Derby-born former player has had quite a topsy-turvy season so far. Losing 5-0 to Leeds and 3-1 to Hull City would be the darkened areas thus far for his Burton Albion squad. Lately however, Clough has gotten his team to snatch 4 points from their last two Championship games. A 2-1 victory against Fulham followed by an all-nil affair against Queens Park Rangers. Even with Burton coming off of a hard fought draw, Steve Bruce must be weary that Burton are taking this game much more serious than his Villa players will. Burton has something to prove not only to themselves, but their supporters. Most Burton supporters see this game as somewhat of a low-key local derby, and that may just fuel the atmosphere like grain alcohol to an open flame through the 90 minutes at the Pirelli Stadium.
If Villa are to stay on the front foot like they did against Nottingham Forest, squad stamina as a whole may be a bit of an issue. During the Nottingham Forest game, a few players seemed to trail off in the second half. This should be troublesome for Steve Bruce and the coaching staff. While not having the flashiest of games as usual, Glenn Whelan seemed to have his stamina tested during the 2-1 win. Supporters seem to be split on if Whelan has a proper foothold in the Aston Villa squad. Alas, with injury woes to Henri Lansbury and Mile Jedinak, Villa supporters may just have to live with Whelan for a bit longer. The Irishman did not have a terrible game by any stretch, even if a misguided tackle contributed to Forests’ only goal of the match. With Whelans’ passing success percentage around 81%, Steve Bruce seems to fancy a man in the middle who isn’t always looking to get further up the pitch, but rather hang behind and make sure the defense is solid. Look to see Whelan in the starting eleven again, with Joshua Onomah waiting in the wings to replace him. Robert Snodgrass also seemed to flicker in and out of the game against Forest, and looked like he was covering a lot more ground than he was comfortable with on the right hand flank. Steve Bruce would have a difficult decision ahead if he decides to drop Snodgrass to the bench, but it seems unlikely.
Jonathan Kodjia has tweeted after the Forest fixture that he is getting stronger and stronger under the minutes he has been getting recently. This is a fantastic sign for Aston Villa, and a terrible one for the rest of the Championship. Every Aston Villa supporter would love to see King Kodjia score, and I have a feeling that we will see just that against Burton. Again, Burton isn’t a team to be looked over and has spoiled some afternoons this season. May just be wishful thinking, but Kodjia finding the net once will most likely point towards him finding the net in abundance moving forward in the schedule.
With Albert Adomah in piping hot form as of late, Steve Bruce seemed to tweak his tactics a bit to allow Adomah to not only be a main outlet, but also a main attacker from a flanking position. A lot of Villa supporters have been negatively critical of Bruce in a variety of areas and for warranted reasons. However, Bruce has now taken the “shackles” off of two of his most hard-working players in Adomah and Hourihane. It’s safe to say that specific tactical change has paid Bruce back in spades, and he supporters back in swollen hearts. It is not only refreshing to the eye to see Aston Villa play this type of football over the past 6 unbeaten Championship games, but it will also be a huge step if they can keep this run of results going forward. With Hourihane bagging 5 goals so far this season and Adomah scoring three goals in two contests, maybe Steve Bruce will continue to impress the naysayers while at the same time, sending Aston Villa higher and higher up the table.