Playoff chase gives added spice to Second City derby.


Aston Villa hosts bitter rivals Birmingham City on Sunday as Dean Smith hopes to see his side put pressure on other playoff hopefuls while writing himself into Second City Derby folklore.

Both sides sit level on points in the Championship with 24. A win for either side would see them put pressure on the top six ahead of a busy Christmas period.

Speaking to the club website ahead of the game, Villa manager Smith spoke about the importance of keeping the game in context, “There’s a lot of anticipation about it,” said the 47-year-old, “But it’s just a game to go and win three points. We have to perform very well against a Birmingham City team that’s been hard to beat this season so far.”

The hosts have had a mixed number of results in their last six matches having won their last two against Derby County and Bolton Wanderers. Beating them 3-0 and 2-0 respectively.

Prior to that, they lost two on the bounce getting beaten 1-0 by QPR and 2-1 by Norwich both games were on the road. The other two results were a 2-1 loss to Millwall and a 1-0 win over Swansea.

As for Garry Monk’s Birmingham City, it was all going well until two games ago as they had won four matches in a row. Those wins were a 3-1 home win against Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham; a 2-1 victory against Reading and a 1-0 away win against Stoke City.

Since then they have lost 3-1 to Frank Lampard’s Derby County and came from behind to draw 3-3 with Hull City in their last home game.

Teams News:

Aston Villa
Smith hopes to have both Neil Taylor and John McGinn back for the all-important derby clash, though the latter is more unlikely to feature while he recovers from a calf strain.

It is almost certain that Villa will be without Birkir Bjarnason. The Icelandic midfielder is recovering following surgery on a groin problem. Captain James Chester’s knee problem will see him out for the foreseeable future, also.

Birmingham City
The away side have two long-term injuries as David Davis’ ankle will rule him out of the derby. Isaac Vassell, nephew of former Aston Villa striker Darius Vassell, knee is unlikely to get any better before facing their rivals.

Though Monk is expected to welcome Jacques Maghoma into the team as he is back in training following his ankle injury. Jota’s hip injury may mean it is too soon for the winger to feature but he will have a fitness test on the day.


Top scorers & Assisters:

Aston Villa
On-loan Chelsea forward Tammy Abraham is Villa’s top scorer with five. He last scored in their last match away against Derby County in their 3-0 victory.

Republic of Ireland international Conor Hourihane is the club top assister with five in 18 matches, behind him is Right-Back Ahmed Elmohamady and Centre Midfielder John McGinn who both have four.


Birmingham City
Striker Lukas Jutkiewicz has scored nine goals for the blues, which makes him third highest scorer in the league joint with Lewis Grabban, Dwight Gayle and Teemu Pukki.

Jota is the sides top assist maker with five. He’s followed by Jutkiewicz who’s on three while Che Adams has two.



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