Di Matteo Expects Direct Approach from Preston and Their Former Villans

The Villa Appetiser: Preston North End v Aston Villa 2016

With more points dropped in mid-week, Villa’s inability to keep hold of a lead is both baffling and frustrating.

When you consider that Di Matteo is seen as something of a defensive coach, it’s a mystery that our defending keeps falling to pieces as the 90th minute mark approaches.

Preston, led by ex-Villan Simon Grayson, sit in 19th place, but that doesn’t tell the whole story of a team that finished in the top half of the table last season.

A win before the international break would be such a boost, but Villa never do things the easy way.

Preston and Villa first met in the inaugural Football League season in 1888. How will we fare in 2016? Let’s find out…

Roberto Di Matteo on Preston

“I am expecting a high intensity game with probably a lot of balls into the box – a lot of long balls that we have to handle and defend.

“There will be a fight for the second ball and a lot of set-plays. They play a lot on those.

“That’s the game I am expecting of Preston.

“Despite the break, I just think it would be really nice for us to get a win over the line and get three points for ourselves.”

Former Villans…

Simon Grayson on Villa

“I spent a couple of years in Birmingham with Aston Villa and had a decent time there.
“We were doing well in the league, in the Premier League and the UEFA Cup and I enjoyed my time there.
“It’s a massive football club with a big fan base and that will be reflected on Saturday when you see the players we will be playing against and the fans they are bringing up.
“But ultimately they are a Championship team now that we want to take three points off.”

Callum Robinson on Villa

“When I left Villa it was obviously the first game I looked at and it wasn’t too long or too far away on October 1.
“It’s been on my mind obviously but hopefully we can get a result against them and I will be really happy with that.
“I was there from eight-years-old. I have been through a lot of coaches – some are still there and some have left and a lot of players have come and gone during the 13 years I was there.
“I was grateful for the opportunity with the likes of Tony McAndrew and Kevin MacDonald who developed me into a good player and got me into the first team with Aston Villa in the Premier League.
“I am grateful for the help they have given to me.
“They helped develop me into the player I am today and I am learning other things here now too.
“I was there for a long time and it was obviously going to be a big game for me.”

preston have won their last two games at Deepdale

Memory Match

19th Jan 1974 Preston North End 0 Villa 0 

It doesn’t sound like a classic – the last time these two clubs had a league meeting in the old Division 2, it ended all square.

Preston – Last five matches at home: W 3, L 2

Villa– Last five matches away: D 3, L 2 

One to Watch

Callum Robinson – Despite limited chances at Villa, Robinson is a favourite at Preston having joined permanently after an initial loan.

Facts to Sweep Under the Carpet

What more can be said about Villa’s habit of conceding late goals?

Preston will know exactly how to frighten Villa, and given their respectable home form, it’ll be another tough battle.

They’ve won their last two games at Deepdale, whereas Villa on the other hand, have won just one of their last 23 league games…

It’s statistics like that that make you realise just how difficult a task it will be for Villa to break the psychological barrier with three points on the road.

Teams in the Championship continue to see Villa as a scalp, and thanks to a Villa connection, the desire will be even stronger for some of Preston’s players.

In addition to ex-Villan Grayson, Preston have former Villans, forward Callum Robinson and midfielder Daniel Johnson with a point to prove.

Neither had much of an opportunity at Villa, but they’re both very important for Preston – Johnson scored against Bournemouth recently to end a run of nine games without a goal.

While Preston are 19th, recent form has improved, and it’s the time of the season during which (most!) teams start settling.

A recent cup win against Premier League Bournemouth will have done no harm to their confidence, and with the pressure all with the away side, it’s hard to envision us getting all three points.

“It’s a massive football club with a big fan base and that will be reflected on Saturday” – grayson ON VILLA

Why Villa Have Got This Game in the Bag

With more games in the Championship than the Premier League, squad rotation is understandable.

It did however seem odd to see Gestede and McCormack on the bench on Tuesday, given their goalscoring records in this league.

Admittedly McCormack is returning from injury, but if he does face Preston it will be a huge boost for Villa, and he’ll also be up against the manager who signed him when at Leeds.

Preston might have picked up some good results at home of late, but might still be licking their wounds after a 5-0 away defeat at Brentford in their last league game.

Despite regular encounters throughout history, it will be our first trip to Deepdale since January 1974.

0-0 was the result then, and funnily enough, it seems like Villa were prone to the odd draw back in 1888 too. We were the first team to ever take a point away from Deepdale in November that year.

Draws crop up quite often when looking at Villa statistics recently, which is understandable as we’ve drawn five times in a row. Curiously however, the last and time we have drawn six in a row was in the 1981-82 season – our European Cup winning campaign.

Tenuous, yes, but perhaps even a draw on Saturday will kickstart more glory for Villa – albeit in the Championship.

Villa’s squad is a match for any in the league, so let’s hope it all clicks at Deepdale this weekend.


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