This one is all about having the ‘guts’!
The “post-Wembley” & “Tim Sherwood” factors
Although - under the stewardship of the former Spurs player and then Manager - Aston Villa’s league record, at least, reads a not-overly impressive, W: 3, D: 1, L: 4...and they still-sit just 4 points above the ‘drop zone’ with three teams below them having a game in hand; there’s no doubting whatsoever that Mr Sherwood has had a hugely-positive affect on the men from the midlands.
Just ask the thousands of Wembley-bound Aston Villa supporters and, in particular, a rejuvenated Christian Benteke…
Then there’s our lot and our issues...and I find myself looking at our recent record and wondering if we can repeat what we’ve failed to achieve since February; and win back-to-back Premier League games. In fact the only ‘back-to-back’ record we’ve managed recently is defeats.
And then there’s the, ‘how will Villa respond after their dizzying F.A Cup semi final triumph’, factor? Often clubs achieve – and can I be so bold as to suggest sometimes over achieve – in cup competitions only to-then suffer a league hangover. And, of course, I’m hoping like hell that’s the case today!
I hope so…but I doubt it.
In Tim Sherwood you’ve got the kind of shirt-ripping, chest-thumping motivator that even if they DID have a wobbly first 45 minutes against us today you can guarantee that it won’t be the same performance after the interval. And that’s what we have to be 'wary of' and 'fight against' this evening (5:30pm KO BST).
We’ll need to show some real mental & physical steel today if we are to get a much-needed (for very different reasons) 3 points against this lot; a team that will come with a noisy following too. At the Etihad we must not let them become what their nickname suggests.
v ‘The Villa’
Hart to face a revitalised Villa attack.
Also defending Benteke & Co. – and for the second week running if my guess is correct – will be the same back 4 that kept a clean sheet against West Ham.
In front of them, Fernando to carry on 'protecting' also.
Get that department right and we have a pretty-awesome attacking quintet in midfield-3 David, Yaya & Jesus in-behind, I think, Sergio and the injury-recovered Wilfried; who I’m sure our manager will have been working with all week with the intent of finally & fully unleashing on Tim Sherwood’s men. If he’s not quite 100% then perhaps we’ll see Edin 'in there'...or perhaps we'll go 4-5-1’ish again.
Willy as keeper cover; Sagna & Boyata to provide defensive back-up. Three midfielders that can offer both utility & goals; Dzeko as our only striking option from the bench.
Result? It’s an intake of breath and a bit of a cheek-blower is this one…
You look at our back-4 against a pumped-up Aston Villa forward line / attacking midfield and I, at least, have some concerns. If Fernando has another good game that will certainly ease the wobbles considerably.
Then, of course, they have to worry about our attacking 5 and if those players are 'on song' then Villa should be very concerned about us.
But for me – as I’ve already more than alluded to - it all boils down to attitude and fighting spirit. Get THAT sorted and the player-class-advantage will take care of itself.
It might be a little scary this tea time; we’ll either blow ‘em out of the water in the early stages and then, as we’ve sometimes seen, sit back with the attitude of “job done” and, therefore, see a Villa fight-back that will be difficult to contain...OR...Tim will have them so fired up that they’ll hit us hard ‘n’ fast when we’re ‘cold’ and will end up having to find the sort of comeback-fighting-spirit we’ve seen little of this season.
I’m so close to putting this down as a ‘points shared’ but I’m going for our lads to have a renewed sense of finishing the season on as high-a-note as possible. It’s a City win.