The big game is finally upon us, and just a day away. Many people have asked me what the score is going to be, and I normally have quite a knack for guessing Blues’ scores, but for me this one is too close to call. There are way too many factors to indicate for, and because of that and also because I don’t want to jinx it, I’ve kept quiet.
On social media in recent days, the rivalry has stepped up, with Villa fans mocking us for having a dirty press conference room, and Blues fans talking about how actually according to statistics I saw on Twitter, so probably not reliable, that only 19% of Villa fans actually live in a Birmingham postcode. In my honest opinion, putting aside the bias for a second, I genuinely believe the Second City derby is the fiercest in England, but still behind Celtic vs Rangers.
We have had some great Derby moments over the years; both good and bad. Enckleman’s catastrophic mistake and the 3-0 onslaught that day. I wish I was there. Another good moment was the Carling Cup quarter final, which was a great day, and I’m glad I was there. I don’t get what it is that makes me hate Villa so much. Is it because I was brought up that way? Is it because they think they are so entitled because they started the football league or because they won a European cup many decades ago? Probably. Even their hero, Stan Collymore labelled Villa fans as “fickle” and as “ancestors of Roy Keane’s prawn-sandwich brigades”.
But that being said, the most important thing is the 90 minutes of football on Sunday. Maghoma and Jota are facing a race against time to be fit, but according to Garry Monk both are looking promising. Villa have injury issues of their own, and to their key players, with McGinn and Chester being doubts for the game, but Chester is looking more likely than McGinn, who has been pivotal to Villa so far this season. He has been both the maestro in midfield and at the forefront of their attack, with 2 goals and 4 assists for them. Villa fans laud him around as the next Zidane, and to be honest, he is very good. Blues were linked with him in the summer according to the established and trusted journalist, Alan Nixon. But however, a move to Celtic seemed nailed on and so we dropped our interest, but when Celtic didn’t want to pay the asking price, Aston Villa swooped in, and bought him.
Villa like to shoot from distance or cross it into highly rated loanee striker, Tammy Abraham, when in an attacking position. And they do have a very dangerous attack, which consists of Premier League-standard talent such: Yannick Bolasie, El-Ghazi and Abraham, as well as Adomah and Kodjia who are very good Championship-standard players. They do however pass the ball around nicely, which is expected with players like Jack Grealish, Conor Hourihane and John McGinn in the midfield, so we may not see much of the ball if they are on their A-game on Sunday.
I do believe we can exploit their biggest weakness though, which is their shaky defence. James Chester is a very good centre-back but is, as I said earlier, a doubt for the derby, which may mean they have to replace him with Jedinak at the back, despite midfield being his natural position. This has happened before, and they leaked goals, and gave the ball away many times in dangerous positions, which was capitalised on by opposition players.
Whoever starts on Sunday, they will be partnered by Axel Tuanzebe, who from what I have seen is very hot and cold, but a good young defender on his day. Alan Hutton is starting to lose his legs and a bit of his quality also, and will look to be exploited by our wingers. In goal, they have Orjan Nyland, who despite making some spectacular stops for the cameras, is just as shaky as Lee Camp is for us at the minute.
For us, Che Adams and Lukas Juktiewicz will be hoping to continue their brilliant starts to the Championship, with 8 and 9 goals to their name. Maghoma will be looking to hit the ground running after coming back from an injury, with him not having the best start to the season. Jota, if fit, will be our creative spark as always, especially as Gary Gardner will be ineligible to face his parent club, and will most likely be replaced with his brother, Gary.
Our defence will be the same I expect, with Colin, Morrison, Dean and Pedersen all being very strong this year, despite conceding 6 goals in our last 2 games. Lee Camp will be peppered with shots, after some shaky performances recently, but if he is having a good game, he should be able to deal with most of them.
I am nervous if I’m honest, but if we play our best we may overcome our fierce rivals.