Villa’s last game of the league ended in a 1-0 defeat to Millwall, but it mattered not as they knew that they were already assured of a 4th place finish and a coveted play-off place – which will be the first Championship play-off that the club has ever been involved in.
In fact, since this game was the proverbial dead rubber, Bruce took the opportunity to give the majority of his first team players an all important rest ahead of the biggest games of some of their careers.
Bruce knew that his side would most likely be facing Derby or Middlesborough in the play-offs, and it looked like it was going to be the former before Middlesbrough scored a late equalizer against Ipswich.
Villa will travel to The Riverside on Saturday for the first-leg with the aim of making the second-leg on Tuesday at Villa Park as comfortable as possible.
Here’s our predicted Villa XI for Saturday’s play-off first-leg against Middlesbrough.
GK: Sam Johnstone
Was given a rest against Millwall last weekend, but he will certainly return to the starting line-up on Saturday.
RB: Ahmed Elmohamady
Bruce is a big fan of Elmohamady and it would be surprising to see him dropped for such an important game.
CB: James Chester
Chester played every minute of the season and put in a solid performance every time he took to the field. He will definitely start against Middlesbrough on Saturday.
CB: John Terry
Terry hasn’t played much football lately, which means he should be nice and fresh for the big games ahead.
LB: Alan Hutton
Hutton gives his all whenever he sticks on a Villa shirt, and with Taylor injured, it’s likely that he will be given the nod to start.
RM: Robert Snodgrass
Snodgrass has been a fine addition to this Villa side and Bruce will be hoping he can produce some magic over the course of the play-offs.
CM: Glenn Whelan
Whelan has got quite a bit of stick this season, but he has been performing well lately and we expect Bruce to give him a start on Saturday.
CM: Conor Hourihane
Hourihane has divided opinions among Villa fans, but Bruce will be hoping he can use his creativity to help give Villa an important lead to take back to Villa Park.
CM: Jack Grealish
Grealish has been in the form of his life recently and Bruce won’t even consider leaving him out on Saturday.
LM: Albert Adomah
Adomah has been off the boil lately, but Bruce will need his defensive abilities and his pace to help Hutton keep Traore in check.
ST: Lewis Grabban
Grabban has been in fine form recently and is Villa’s biggest goal threat at the moment. Would be a surprise to see him start on the bench on Saturday.