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Pre-match Report: Bolton Wanderers

After a dumbfounding loss to Queens Park Rangers earlier in the week, nine games remain in the season for Aston Villa going into the game with Bolton Wanderers. While Bolton have only achieved three points once in their last five games, Villa must make certain they are not going to have a repeat of Tuesday night.

Bolton come into the game with 36 points from 37 games this season and are only 6 points from the relegation zone. The leading goal scorer for Bolton is English right-wing Sammy Ameobi, who has scored four times this year for the Trotters. Ameobi has been playing more as a centre-forward as of late, but he has also not scored in his previous seven outings. Bolton have the cross to bear of not being able to score more than 2 goals in a match since a shock home win against Cardiff City on December 23rd. Bolton manager Phil Parkinson will instruct a 4-2-3-1 formation that has been a mainstay all season thus far. Parkinson will have a mostly healthy squad to choose from while it is unknown if midfielder Darren Pratley is able to be involved after picking up a knock in training.

Aston Villa know all about knocks and selection hurdles to overcome. While Axel Tuanzebe and Alan Hutton have been on the mend, now Neil Taylor is the newest member of the Aston Villa injury list. Villa gaffer Steve Bruce has said that young natural right-back James Bree will be getting a shot to fill-in on the left side of the defence. James Bree has not featured in a first-team match for Aston Villa since September 9th, but the 20 year old fullback will no doubt looking to make an impact.

Jonathan Kodjia has been on the lips of many Aston Villa supporters as of late. While the leading goalscorer from last season is still on the mend according to Steve Bruce, the gaffer claimed that “you never know” what the odds are for a late season return for Kodjia. Kodjia scored an emphatic 19 goals last season when Villa finished 13th on the Championship table. If Kodjia does become fit and ready to play before the end of the current campaign, Steve Bruce has claimed he would be tentative about bringing him straight back into the first-team. Bruce was quoted saying, “He’s been out a year – we’ve got three games this week and he won’t be involved, then we’ve got the international break for two weeks.”

Villa have won three of their last five games and have been particularly decent away from home this year. Villa will travel to The Macron Stadium having won ten away games in all competitions this season. The Claret & Blue must be careful however as Bolton have 2 wins, 2 draws and only 1 loss at The Macron in their last five home games.

Villa gaffer Steve Bruce has been outspoken about his regrets about the mid-week loss to Queens Park Rangers. Bruce carried the burden of loss himself and said he was on the fence about making selection changes after an emotional win over Wolverhampton Wanderers. This may signify that some players will be getting rotated in against a Bolton side that Villa should be defeating, especially this time of the season. Bruce may have to shy away from a 4-1-4-1 formation that stopped Wolves in their tracks to try and get the squad back to winning ways. Villa supporters in mass have been asking what peripheral midfielder Birkir Bjarnason has to do to get a game for Aston Villa. Birkir has looked high and large a good footballer when called upon, but midfielders such as Conor Hourihane and Mile Jedinak have been keeping him out of the squad. With Glenn Whelan now out for an extended period of time with an injury, Steve Bruce must be thinking about utilising Bjarnason and giving a different edge to the Villa midfield.

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

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