Writer: Barry Worthington
Date:Friday December 28 2007
Aston Villa come into this weekends game against Wigan Athletic buzzing after their 4-4 draw at the Bridge against Chelsea on Boxing Day
The Latics have also been producing as of late and we could end up with an end of year thriller at the JJB with both teams hell bent on a win to continue their rise up the league.
Villa have not beaten the Latics in the Premiership home or away and last season there was two draws, a nil-nil at the JJB in the corresponding fixture and a 1-1 at Villa Park with the Latics playing 60 minutes with ten men following Antonio Valencias dismissal.
Villa fans class themselves as followers of a big club though that is down to history and potential rather than any recent success.
Martin O`Neil was brought in to change the clubs fortunes and push them on to the next level of challenging for UEFA qualification or even trying to crack the top four but unfortunately for the fans they appear to have stagnated into a mediocre mid table side, something that I wish we would become.
Recent away form though gives the Villa faithful hope that this season may just see a turn around in fortunes with O`Neils team, they have won three and draw four of their last seven away games and they have scored 19 goals on their travels this season, the most in the Premiership.
In contrast the Latics have only scored 19 goals in total this season but since the arrival of Steve Bruce as manager they we have started to put some form together with two wins, two draws and one defeat from the last five games.
Boxing Days game against Newcastle was the first shut out of opposition since the 3-0 drubbing of Sunderland way back in August lets hope that we have put that one to bed and can now shut out a lot more sides starting with Villa
Saturday should see Kevin Kilbane make his 50th League appearance for the Latics and should Emerson Boyce make the team he will be making his 300th career appearance
Latics boss Steve Bruce:
'We've played three teams in the top 10 since I arrived, and won two and drawn one.
'If we keep going like that then I hope we can stay out of the bottom three.
'I'm not going to get carried away. But we've given ourselves a chance so I'm very, very pleased.'
Gareth Barry Villa skipper:
'Away from home we've been good at playing on the counter attack. Playing away as suited our style and we enjoy taking teams on'
' They've got a lot of quality and we'll have to be at our best, but we are also playing with a lot of confidence and it promises to be a good game'
Villa boss Martin O'Neil:
"It will be really strange seeing Steve Bruce managing another club"
"I`ve only managed Aston Villa once against Birmingham City but Stevie was something of a permanent fixture around St Andrew`s.
"So it will be very strange to see him in another dugout just a few weeks after he was at Birmingham."
"It will also be strange to see Emile Heskey probably come up against us"
"It`s not the first time I`ve come across him since he was at Leicester with me - when Celtic played Liverpool in the UEFA Cup quarter-final, Emile played for Liverpool.
"So I know all about him and he will present a big test for us."
Emile Heskey is rated at 80% to make the side but Jason Koumas is still struggling with a groin injury.
Kirkland, Melchiot, Taylor, Boyce, Bramble, Kilbane, Valencia, Brown, Scharner, Landzaat, Koumas, Bent, Heskey, Aghahowa, Granqvist, Olembe, Koumas, Skoko, Cotterill, Hall, Sibierski, Pollitt.
Latics leading scorer with seven goals and Bent is also the leading English marksman in the Prem, England call up?
Wilfrid Bouma is struggling with an ankle injury and Gareth Barry could be forced to cover at left back.
Carson, Mellberg, Davies, Laursen, Bouma, Petrov, Reo-Coker, Barry, Young, Agbonlahor, Carew, Taylor, Moore, Maloney, Cahill, Gardner, Harewood, Osbourne, Berger, Salifou.
Young, strong, pacey and bags of talent, Agbonlahor is one for the future producing the goods today
Wigan Athletic 0-0 Aston Villa
19 November 2006
Ref Steve Bennett
Home and away
Latics 2, Villa 0, Draws 2
At the JJB:
Latics 1, Villa 0, Draws 1
Howard Webb (Yorkshire)
Matches - 14
Yellows - 52
Reds - 0
Heart says 2-0 Latics
Head says 1-1
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Date:Friday December 28 2007
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