Jump to content

Match Preview: Aston Villa v Middlesbrough


Recommended Posts

Former Villa skipper Gareth Southgate continues his first managerial attempt with his first game in the away dugout at Villa Park.

FA Barclays Premiership

Villa Park

Saturday 25th November 2006

Kick Off 3pm

It seems like ages since we played at home, doesn't it? It's the end of November and we have two home games within days of each other. We've lost just one game so far this season, losing the country's longest unbeaten run at Anfield. We are still unbeaten at home, a reminder of the days of the not-so-distant past which saw Villa Park as the fortress it should be. Are those days returning? We're yet to find out, but these games against Middlesbrough and Manchester City will give us a clue.

We've picked up some tough away points, most notably at Arsenal and Chelsea, and a win at Everton. Our home form, while less spectacular, is very good. We've beaten the teams we should be beating and the difference over twelve months is breathtaking. There are, however, bigger challenges to come at home, and two games in a few days against teams which have caused us problems in the past could be one of them.

Former Villa centre half Gareth Southgate makes his first managerial visit to Villa Park and he will be a relieved man to be doing so. He was granted permission to stay on as Middlesbrough boss this week despite not holding the requisite qualifications. His side have made a haphazard start to the season, currently sitting in 14th place in the Premiership. Games two and three summed up their season: a 2-1 win over Chelsea, followed by a 4-0 home defeat to Portsmouth. Boro are lacking consistency. They are unpredictable and can beat anyone on their day. However, they're more likely to be drab, inadequate and failing to compete. They have not won away from home this season.

So what about Villa? I've lost count of the number of times this season I've said we're living a dream. Randy Lerner and the board are making all the right moves and all the right noises. Martin O'Neill is showing glimpses of an education by the late great legend Brian Clough. The players, with the apparent exception of one, are willing to bust a gut for their new boss. As fans, we simply can't ask for more at the moment. To cut a long story short, we're on a roll. On paper there's no reason that should end tomorrow.

Once again, results could conspire to return Villa to the third spot we (briefly) held a couple of weeks ago. We have picked up three clean sheets in a row thanks to superb performances from Thomas Sorensen, Gary Cahill and Liam Ridgewell in particular. With Boro misfiring, Martin O'Neill will certainly be hoping for a fourth. However they have a good record at Villa Park in the last few years so we won't be taking anything for granted.

Villa's Aaron Hughes should be available - though it could be argued his inclusion would be a mistake. He's been very poor this season and the back four has performed exceptionally well in his absence. It all depends I suppose whether O'Neill wants to give Gary Cahill a break. Sky Sports is reporting that Stiliyan Petrov is fit and also suggests that Gavin McCann will return after suspension, conflicting with rumours elsewhere of a minor injury.

For Boro: Andrew Davies, George Boateng and (laughably, England midfielder) Stewart Downing are doubts, meaning Julio Arca could retain his place, and Abel Xavier, Lee Cattermole and Robert Huth will be competing to start.

So, to my prediction. Good old Lawro's taken the safe option with a 2-0 Villa win and I have to say I agree with him. I think we'll see goals from Gabby and a first home effort from Chris Sutton. I'm hoping for a comfortable home win, I'd be happy with a scrappy one and accepting of a draw. Right now there's more to being a Villa fan than just results, but isn't it nice that they're going our way?

Come on you Villa boys!


Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Create New...