Dean Smith takes his Villa side to Derby on Saturday afternoon in the hope that they can pick up another three points that will bring them right back into the play-off mix.
However, it will probably be one of Smith’s toughest challenges yet as Frank Lampard, after a slow start, has got his side playing some very decent football. In fact, they have picked up 4 wins and 3 draws from their last 7 league matches.
Villa, who have 2 wins and 2 defeats under Smith, currently sit in 14th place in the table, but a win at the weekend, with other results going their way as well, could see them move up to 9th, just a few points away from the play-off places.
However, if Smith is being perfectly honest with himself, he will probably be content if Villa walk away from Pride Park with a point.
Here is our predicted Villa XI for Saturday’s game against Derby:
GK: Orjan Nyland
Nyland has been shaky in goal under Smith, but we reckon he will be given another chance to prove his worth.
RB: Alan Hutton
Hutton has played at right-back in the four games that Smith has been in charge of and we don’t see that changing on Saturday.
CB: James Chester
Chester was back to his best against Bolton and Smith will be hoping that he can carry on like this for the rest of the season.
CB: Axel Tuanzebe
Tuanzebe is starting to form a decent partnership with Chester in the heart of the defence, so Smith won’t want to break that up anytime soon.
LB: Neil Taylor
Taylor wouldn’t get a look in if Smith had any other natural left-footed defenders at his disposal, but since he doesn’t, we expect Taylor to start once again.
RM: Ahmed Elmohamady
Elmohamady sat out of the last game, but due to Adomah’s poor form, we reckon he will start against Derby.
CM: Mile Jedinak
Jedinak is yet to feature under Smith, but we reckon he will want a bit of extra defensive protection against a good Derby side, so Jedinak could make his first appearance in a while.
CM: John McGinn
McGinn has been fantastic since he signed for Villa, and we’d be very surprised if he didn’t start at the weekend.
CM: Jack Grealish
Grealish is starting to flourish under Smith and will be one of the first names on the teamsheet at the moment.
LM: Jonathan Kodjia
With Bolasie seemingly not fit enough to play a full match and El Ghazi seemingly out of favour, we reckon that Kodjia will start on the wing once again.
ST: Tammy Abraham
Abraham has been in fine form as of late and will almost certainly be leading the attack on Saturday.