It’s Derby Day tomorrow! A new era forecasts a prolific man in the dugout who will know the size of the immediate task ahead of him – starting with the matter of taking on the bitter Midlands derby.
A far from joyous Easter weekend yielded a solitary point against Rotherham, rooted to the bottom of the table. This, followed by a familiar story in the home loss to Burton Albion, proved to be the last straw for the Italian in the dugout with Gianfranco Zola himself resigning straight after the defeat.
Upsteps Londoner Harry Redknapp into the hot seat, who is tasked with keeping us out of the danger zone we should have never been fighting to stay out of. This clash is the first of three games, and possibly last games, Redknapp will take charge of, should the unthinkable happen and we don’t pick up the points to stay up.
On the pitch, a drastic change in formation can be expected with Zola’s attacking variation of 3-5-2 and 5-3-2 proving to be both unsuitable and unsuccessful with the current crop. A system that comprises defence for sustained attack just hasn’t suited the players, so a more traditional back four and wingers on both sides is likely to be fielded. This could see Jacques Maghoma play a pivotal role as the winger to run at Villas defence and cause problems out wide. January addition Kerim Frei will be looking to steer the attack who has seen little match action since his £2.2 million arrival at the club. The midfield can be expected to be tight and direct to the front players so including David Davies and/or Craig Gardner can be expected.
As Lukus Jutkiewicz is fully recovered from his injury woes, the season’s leading goal scorer for Blues looks certain to start along with Che Adams who has started to find the net lately. Unfortunately, Clayton Donaldson remains out due to a knee injury sustained in training last week. Defender Michael Morrison is also side-lined following a setback from his hernia surgery.
Meanwhile, the Polish International Tomasz Kuszczak is likely to be selected for this game, being made available for selection after recovering from a shoulder injury picked up in the first half against Burton Albion
The news of top scorer Jonathan Kodjias suspension will be met with relief by the Blues back line; the Ivorian international has bagged 19 goals in the league before his red card at Fulham last weekend. Steve Bruce will be assessing the fitness of left-back Neil Taylor who was absent from the previous two losses to Fulham and Reading through a groin injury. Another doubt is 18-year-old winger Andre Green who is dealing with a hamstring injury. The Academy prospect has been praised by Bruce in his 17 appearances this season but the Villains look set to be without his presence for this match.
In the reverse at St.Andrews, Gary Rowett led Blues to a score draw with David Davis equalising with a shot outside the box to send the Tilton end and the ground intro ruptures. The new man at the helm will call on that fight today to put on a match-winning display in the first of three vital fixtures.
Harry Redknapp is already making his mark into the culture of the club; Reciting the lyrics to Keep Right On earlier this week will no doubt help to make him a fan favourite. A win on Villa’s own turf might just turn the heads of doubters, who are unsure of his worth to the club after the final three games.
You can watch his pre-match conference here:
*There will be a minute silence prior to kick off in honour of former Aston Villa defender Ugo Ehiogu whose death shocked the footballing world this Friday. Players of both teams will wear black armbands to remember the husband, father-of-two described as “irreplaceable” and a person of “immense presence”.