Championship football is back after the international break, and Villa’s revival under Steve Bruce will be seriously tested by a trip to second placed Brighton.
The Seagulls have lost just twice in 16 league matches this season, and haven’t experienced defeat since losing 2-0 at home to Brentford in early September. Many doubted Chris Hughton’s ability to lift his side after last year’s promotion heartbreak, but they have bounced back in fine style to challenge Newcastle at the top of the table.
Last year’s top scorers have added a defensive steel to their game, winning their last four league matches without letting in a goal. They have conceded just three times in a ten-match unbeaten run since that defeat to Brentford at the Amex Stadium.
However, we have looked a different team since Bruce took over five matches ago. The former Manchester United defender has found a centre back pairing he can trust in Nathan Baker and James Chester, but they could be more exposed if Mile Jedinak is considered too tired to start in midfield after his international duties with Australia.
Our chances of winning at Brighton may well depend on the form of Jonathan Kodjia, who has six goals in just 11 league appearances for Villa. The Ivorian, who is 2.40 on EnergyBet to score at any time on Friday, has worked well in tandem with another former Bristol City player in Albert Adomah.
The African duo are likely to start on the flanks for Villa, but it remains to be seen whether Adomah will be joined in a front three by his Ghanaian team-mate Jordan Ayew. Ross McCormack deputised against Blackburn last time out, as Ayew served a one-match ban for collecting five yellow cards.
Bruce’s other big decision will be whether to go with three deeper lying central midfield players, especially given Brighton put five past Norwich in their last home match, or retain the more attack-minded Jack Grealish in a number ten role.
Either way, the Seagulls should expect a much sterner test against a Villa side which hasn’t conceded more than a solitary goal in any match under Bruce so far. We may be the underdogs, but we’re certainly capable of springing a surprise on the south coast.
EnergyBet Match Odds:
Brighton 1.86 | Draw 3.35 | Villa 4.25