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Steve Bruce’s men simply must be in the promotion fight


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It is fair to state that Aston Villa fans have not had much to shout about in recent seasons, with the disappointing nature of Premier League relegation in 2015-16 compounded by a Championship campaign of mediocrity last term.

However, with English domestic club football set to return this weekend, there is a renewed sense of optimism that Steve Bruce can lead the club back to where it belongs - the Premier League.

Getting promoted from the Championship is a notoriously gruelling task, as Villa found out in 2016-17, but with a more settled squad and a solid pre-season under his belt, the Midlands club’s manager will be quietly confident of a successful forthcoming campaign.

The sheer amount of expenditure that has been shelled out on new players since the arrival of owner Dr Tony Xia dictates that Villa should be one of the frontrunners, while Bruce has been quick to cast aside some of the squad’s deadwood over the summer.

The coming and goings at the Birmingham-based side mean that the club are one of the favourites to get promoted in 2017-18 with the bookmakers, as punters use their Boylesports free bet to back Villa at odds of around 6/1.

John Terry’s high-profile arrival gives Bruce a leader in his team, with the former Chelsea enforcer set to bring a wealth of experience and authority to the Midlands club.

The return of goalkeeper Sam Johnstone on loan also provides the club with a safe pair of hands, but it may well be at the other end of the pitch that Villa need to get the right mix.

Jonathan Kodjia’s goals were critical in Villa avoiding being sucked into a potential relegation fight last season, with the club overly reliant on the African hitman for firepower.

With the main man returning from serious injury, it will initially be up to others to carry the responsibility of getting the goals to secure positive results.

Scott Hogan joined from Brentford in January and has undoubted calibre, but the striker needs to find his best form if Villa are to stand a promotion chance.

The 25-year-old is offered up at odds of around 14/1 to top the Championship scoring charts in 2017-18, in what would be a major boost for Bruce’s men.

Midfield also remains an area of contention, with it looking like Villa have too many players to all fit into one team.

The January recruitment of Henri Lansbury, Birkir Bjarnason and Conor Hourihane means the club have a new-look dynamic in the heart of their team, while Glenn Whelan has also been signed over the summer.

With Australian veteran Mile Jedinak also in the mix, Bruce needs to settle on his first-choice partnership or trio in central midfield if Villa are to dominate possession and over-run opponents.

A home clash against Hull city is first up for the Midlands side, with a win an ideal start to the campaign – the hosts are favourites at odds of around 11/10 to record three points on Saturday.
 

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