Grealish can expect a rough ride, but Dean Smith’s side are revitalised after Rams rout
By Graham Hill
THE one thing you can always be sure about in the Second City Derby is that – for most of the time anyway – it’s going to be close.
Okay, you can point to Villa’s 5-1 in 2008 And Blues’ 3-0 victory in a memorable Monday night meeting between the sides in 2002.
But most of the time, there is little too choose between the teams no matter what division they are playing in.
Even the December meeting at Villa Park could have gone either way before Dean Smith’s men pulled away to win 4-2.
At that point, it looked as though Villa were going to stage a serious promotion push.
But then Jack Grealish got injured, was out for three months and…. Well, you know the rest.
Obviously, Jack is back – and how! Saturday’s display against Derby was remarkable in more ways than one.
Remember, he had been missing for 12 weeks – and only played for 70 minutes.
By that time he had inspired Villa to a 4-0 win and scored one of the goals of the season.
Can Grealish expect such an easy ride again on Sunday? Not a bit of it!
Villa’s talisman can expect to be targeted from the first minute.
Of course, the by-product of this is that other players get the freedom to play their natural game.
So while Grealish will doubtless finish the game black and blue, there could be match winning displays from the likes of Tammy Abraham and Conor Hourihane.
And if John McGinn gets on the pitch – assuming he does not start – then expect the Scot to shine after a two-match suspension.
But Blues go into the game two points ahead of Villa and with play-off ambitions of their own depending on if they are handed a points deduction.
Garry Monk’s side have had some outstanding results in recent weeks too, beating Bristol City, Nottingham Forest and QPR.
Villa are looking thin in defence after Tommy Elphick was ruled out for six weeks with a foot injury.
And while Tyrone Mings has been in good form, Villa are likely to concede.
But the attacking possibilities mean Villa should find the net too. So a repeat of this season’s meeting could mean goals are on the cards again.
In fact, it could be another one of those ‘we’ll score one more than you games’.
And after the excitement of the games against Forest and Sheffield United this season who knows what the final score could be.
Cue 0-0 draw!
Seriously, I think Villa will edge a thriller – but only if Grealish is on top form again.