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It might be no more than fifteen days since we last played at Turf but in that time we’ve played three away games, losing the first one at West Ham and then winning at both Liverpool and Fulham, the second of those wins in the FA Cup.

So we return on 19 points with this game taking us to the half way stage of the season and we return having reached the fifth round of the FA Cup for just the second time in the last ten seasons and with us back on the road this weekend tonight’s is a vital game as we look to further the gap between ourselves and the clubs at the bottom.

The win at Liverpool last Thursday lifted us back to 16th in the table. We were behind Newcastle on goals scored but they’ve since been beaten twice so we are currently 15th with such as Crystal Palace and Wolves now the closest to us as we look up.

And look up we should be doing too. When we went to Brighton in early December we were bottom of the league and the draw that day took us up one place. We won our next game against Crystal Palace and from that day onwards only the two Manchester clubs, West Ham and Leicester have won more points than we have.

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That change in form, which followed that disappointing start, came when captain Ben Mee returned to the side a few games after James Tarkowski had overcome his early season injury. Ahead of tonight’s game, Mee said: “We’ve got a lot of games coming up and we’re enjoying it. We’re pleased with how it’s going. We’re looking up the table now, especially after the win last week, and looking forward to these games.”

He added: “We’ve got a lot of games coming up and we’re enjoying it. We’re pleased with how it’s going. We’re looking up the table now, especially after the win last week, and looking forward to these games.”

Mee joined the 300 group when he made his 300th league appearance for us last season at Crystal Palace, scoring the winner last night. He’s recently passed Colin Waldron to move into 12th place in terms of post-war appearances although, at 312, he’s still got some way to go to catch John Angus and Jimmy McIlroy who finished on 439.

Mee will make it 313 tonight, just five short of championship winning goalkeeper Adam Blacklaw. Who will play alongside him will depend on the injury situation. Charlie Taylor remains a doubt but all of Robbie Brady, Josh Brownhill and Ashley Barnes, all of who have been nursing knocks, should be available.

Yet again the big question will centre on the forwards. Jay Rodriguez had an outstanding afternoon against Fulham and must be pushing for a place. With Barnes a doubt this could be his chance to get a place back in the Premier League team.

We could line up: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Erik Pieters, Robbie Brady, Josh Brownhill, Ashley Westwood, Dwight McNeil, Chris Wood, Jay Rodriguez. Subs from: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Jimmy Dunne, Dale Stephens, Jack Cork, Josh Benson, Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson, Ashley Barnes, Matěj Vydra.

Villa arrive at the Turf in ninth place in the table with 29 points and that’s from 17 games, they have currently played less games than every team other than Everton. I think it is fair to say that they are having a better season than last when it took them 35 games to reach the points total they have now. They were very fortunate to stay up but have built on that and will definitely not be in any danger now and could very well be pushing for a European place.

Ollie Watkins (pictured below), a player we were looking at until we saw the price, is their leading goalscorer with seven goals this season. That includes a hat trick in THE most astonishing result this season when they beat Liverpool 7-2. They have some very attacking players but there is no doubt that the biggest threat comes from Jack Grealish who surely in his current form is as good a midfielder as there is available for the England team.

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They have John McGinn back after serving a suspension with Kortney Hause the only player ruled out. They even have manager Dean Smith back on the touchline; he had to serve a ban following his red card at Manchester City although he’ll now be delighted he won that particular battle with a change to the interpretation of offside.

One other player who could come into the reckoning is new signing Morgan Sanson who has joined them this week from Marseille on a four and a half year deal.

Villa’s most recent Premier League game was a 2-0 home win against Newcastle with goals from Watkins and Bertrand Traoré. Their team was: Emiliano Martinez, Matty Cash, Ezri Konsa, Tyrone Mings, Matt Targett, Douglas Luiz, Marvelous Nakamba, Bertrand Traoré, Ross Barkley, Jack Grealish, Ollie Watkins. Subs: Tom Heaton, Neil Taylor, Frédéric Guilbert, Björn Engels, Ahmed Elmohamady, Keinan Davis, Anwar El Ghazi, Mahmoud Trézéguet, Jacob Ramsey.

 

LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE

 

New Year’s Day 2020. We went into the game on the back of defeats against Everton and Manchester United. We lost this one 2-1 and I don’t think anyone could have had any complaints at us losing the game.

Villa would have been in front with only a few minutes gone had VAR not intervened, and wrongly intervened. I didn’t know then and I don’t know now why their goal was disallowed. Officially Wesley’s heel was offside but that was prior to James Tarkowski clearing the ball. Villa got the ball back in for Jack Grealish to head home. Incredible decision that had supporters of both clubs singing: “It’s not football anymore.”

Wesley did give them the lead from a Grealish pass but no response from the Villa fans who were not prepared to celebrate until the game had restarted and the goal had been confirmed. Then, four minutes before half time the outstanding Grealish got a second and the game was all but over.

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We had more of the game in the second half but Villa knew the points were there’s although we did pull one back ten minutes from time through Chris Wood  which saw former goalkeeper Tom Heaton suffer a serious injury trying to keep it out.

Tom left on a stretcher to a standing ovation; a few minutes later we all left after another disappointing game and with Chelsea, Leicester, Manchester United and Arsenal to come in the next four games.

Apart from the points, Villa also then took Danny Drinkwater from us, so it wasn’t all bad news I suppose.

The teams were;

Burnley: Nick Pope, Phil Bardsley, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor, Dwight McNeil, Ashley Westwood, Jack Cork, Robbie Brady (Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson ht), Ashley Barnes (Jay Rodriguez ht), Chris Wood. Subs not used: Joe Hart, Matt Lowton, Kevin Long, Danny Drinkwater, Jeff Hendrick.

Aston Villa: Tom Heaton (Ørjan Nyland 85), Ezri Konsa, Tyrone Mings, Kortney Hause, Frédéric Guilbert, Douglas Luiz, Marvelous Nakamba, Neil Taylor, Trézéguet (Conor Hourihane 78), Wesley (Jonathan Kodjia 71), Jack Grealish. Subs not used: James Chester, Henri Lansbury, Anwar El Ghazi, Ahmed Elmohamady.

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