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Pre-match Report: What to Watch for against Forest

Follow us on Twitter @claretandview // Words by Mark Jirobe (@VillaMarkPGH)

There’s a lot to be positive about, even with the loss to Middlesbrough that ultimately removed Aston Villa from the Carabao Cup. Nottingham Forest is next up for Villa, and it has he makings of a game that should prove to be positive moving forward. Steve Bruces’ selection for the exiting Cup fixture replaced all eleven players that featured in the 3-0 win against Barnsley. Steve Bruce was adamant in the press conference leading up the the Forest game about his selection process. He seems to have a firm hold on what his starting eleven is now that Jonathan Kodjia is back in the fold, even if Kodjia is still working to get back to full fitness. Albert Adomah also had a cracker of a game with a brace, and Bruce has been very open that he has no choice but to select Adomah as soon and as much as he can. 

Forest come to Villa Park sitting 10th on the Championship table, with four losses and four wins. Their last Championship contest saw them lose to Wolves after an 81 minute goal by Wolverhampton’s Diogo Jota. It has been a bit of trend for Forest, as they have been allowing goals  in the second 45 so far this season. This may be something that will be exploitable if Villa can keep their legs under them and their heads forward in the second half of the game.  If Bruce decides to stick with a 4-4-2 formation that we saw against Barnsley, Villa should have the quality to see the game turn in their favour. Somewhat of a crazy statistic, Steve Bruce has only lost 3 of his last thirty-six home league games. Pairing Keinan Davis and Jonathan Kodjia again would only help to improve the players chemistry, but also seems to be favoured by the Villa supporters as well. This is promising for Villa that the ‘manager out’ drama seems to be dying out, and supporters are starting to have a real intrigue as to what Villa is going to show in the games ahead. 

Nottingham Forest have lost three of their last four games, and it seems they are ripe for the picking in this game as well. Nothing seems to be going right for Forest in terms of team cohesion and understanding. Forest manager Mark Warburton isn’t getting frustrated, however. He knows Forest supporters yearn for a attractive and meaningful style of football regardless of who is lining up against them. His style of play is generally fast counter-attacking, using striker Daryl Murphy as the man to be at the end of the play. His 4 goals are the most of any Forest player so far this season. For being 34 years of age, Murphy is still a very stable option as a striker. He has instincts that can’t be taught, but more so learned through experience. It is not always obviously clear of his age while watching him play. If Forest are going to try to keep pushing forward, Murphy could help with a big game against Villa. 

Midfielder Ben Osborn will most likely be the man who puts it all together for Forest. In his 8 appearances for Forest in all competitions, he has created 9 chances and looked to be slotting nicely into a role that sees him execute some very stingy passes. If Steve Bruce decides to keep the midfield that featured against Barnsley, Glenn Whelan is going to have to continue his decent run of form going up against Osborn. Adding to that idea, Conor Hourihane seems to be building chemistry with Whelan. This is a good sign for Aston Villa for a multitude of reasons, but a lot of supporters are taking it at face value. It is nice to see a group of midfield players actually feeding off of each other, and having a real feel for their partners in the middle of the park. 

Even though there are still many Villa supporters wearing black and literally mourning the exit in the Carabao Cup, earning three points in this contest could see those supporters snap out of their catatonic state. Steve Bruce has attempted to calm down this small percentage of supporters by exclaiming that the EFL Cup was not ever a high priority. I don’t know many supporters that would rationally take a Cup win, followed by a league loss during a season where getting as high on the table as possible is the only objective. Regardless, this will not be a walk in the park for Forest or for Aston Villa. Villa are on a run of five league games without a loss, and I’m sure the supporters would like to extend that with another home win and more climbing up the table.

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