Date: 28th December 2007 at 12:09pm
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Villa’s final game of 2007 comes on the back of a tremendous 4-4 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day. If this match has half the drama in it, I’ll be a happy bunny as I go on my second ever Villa away day.

The match also sees Villa fans re-united with one Steve ‘potato head’ Bruce as he bids to lead a revival of a Wigan side that previously looked destined for the not-so-promised land of the Championship.

Full preview as always (apart from Chelsea, sorry!) from Vital Villa!

Vital Quotes:

Aston Villa’s captain Gareth Barry has admitted that the Villa squad will have to look out for the ‘Steve Bruce Factor’ as they travel to his new home at the JJB.

Bruce oversaw a number of Birmingham City victories over the AVFC Claret & Blues, and will be no doubt out to prove a point following more recent second-city victories for the cities biggest club.

‘They’ve responded to the new manager and are producing some excellent results which have surprised a few people and have moved out of the bottom three” Barry told

‘They’ve got a lot of quality in the squad with people like Emile Heskey and Jason Koumas and they are battling for their lives.

‘We will once again have to be at our very best, but we are also playing with a lot of confidence and it promises to be good game.’

There is a possibility that Barry may have to change positions should Freddie Bouma not recover from a slight ankle injury. Bouma was substituted late on as he came out second best from a challenge, giving an opportunity to Marlon Harewood to get onto a pitch to attempt to make a contribution. What a contribution he made too, he had a right old go at Michael “dive bomber” Ballack.

Anyway, Barry admitted that he is quite happy to play at left back, should it be required:

Wherever I am picked to play I will do my best. It’s about the team and getting three points that counts.

‘Everyone knows I prefer to play in the middle but because of the size of the squad we all have to be versatile from time to time.

‘And if I have to switch back into defence if Freddie doesn’t make it, then I’ll take that challenge on.’

On the flip, good old spud-head* has been spouting the kind of rubbish we’re used to from his Birmingham City days. Old habits certainly do die hard as Wigan player Paul Scharner criticises the new boss for his somewhat “direct” style of play.

‘Anyone who knows me knows I’ve never played the long-ball way,’ said Bruce. ‘I totally disagree with anyone who says you have to play long ball to survive. We didn’t knock it long when we beat Blackburn. There’s a difference between a long pass and a punt up the pitch.’

Steve then went on to suggest he’s happy living in the North-West of England, claims that may just be unfounded as he resides in a town with a pier that doesn’t exist:

‘I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the month I have been here, we’ve given some good teams good games and today we came out on top against another good side.’

(*I was going to make a joke about a jacket potato here, but Fear has already managed to use it about 6 times, including once last Saturday. For those travelling with, or sitting next to him at Wigan on Saturday, I’d be preparing yourself now for that joke to get an away-outing.)

Wigan Piersiders Team News:

Having finished their pies, the Wigan team news has finally been released as Steve Bruce looks set to go into the game without regularly-sulking Welsh midfielder Jason Koumas who is suffering from groin trouble.

Good news for comedy lovers everywhere, E-Mule Heskey and Titus Bramble (!!!) are available.

Player to watch: TITus Bramble

It had to be him! The only bad thing about Bramble’s move to Wigan is that he’s not playing for Newcastle anymore.

Has to be one of the most comical defenders in Premiership, nay football history and should be exploited by the power and pace of our front line.

AVFC Claret & Blues Team News:

As mentioned previously, Wilfred Bouma may miss the game with an ankle injury, captain Gareth Barry likely to replace him at left back.

Stillyan Petrov should have recovered from illness now and may make a return to the team with Barry’s potential switch to play D.

Villa find out later today if Zat Knight’s red card appeal is successful, should the dismissal be upheld, Curtis Davies will step in alongside Martin Laursen.

Player to watch: Shaun Maloney

Oh Shaun, where have you been all this time? Had we known that all it would take for you to play well was to find a place of your own down here, we could have helped!

2 goals against Chelsea although one was from a Carson-esque gift, thanks Petr! Lets hope for many many more!

Match Facts & Stats

  • According to the BBC, Aston Villa have never beaten Wigan in a league fixture. I feel it may be time to change that stat.

  • A win, coupled with the right results elsewhere could see Villa move up into 6th place, a likely UEFA Cup spot this season.

  • Villa have scored more goals in away matches this season than any other club, obviously boosted by 8 goals in two trips to London!

  • Shaun Maloney has joined Gabriel Agbonlahor on 6 goals for the season, perhaps justifying his position alongside John Carew for Saturday’s match.

  • For the second match in a row, Agbonlahor has failed to score from 6 yards out with no goalkeeper in the equation. Fortunately for him, this time Ashley Cole decided he’d much rather an early bath, than all 3 points.

  • A big well done goes to me, murph, for remembering to do the preview this time around. Fear was not happy and called me some nasty things for forgetting to do the Chelsea preview. Lets face it though, with Cech playing, Petrov not playing and a 4-4 draw, half of the article would have been wildly inaccurate anyway!

    Ref Watch:

    The referee for the fixture unfortunately is Mr Howard Webb. Mr Webb has managed an incredible 59 yellow yet 0 red cards in his 19 matches.

    Bizzarely he has been able to officiate Real Madrid Vs Werder Bremen and PSV V Fenerbache without issuing a single card!

    Match Prediction:

    It would be wrong of me to wish for a post-Christmas stuffing, I’m not that way inclined, however I feel Villa could roll over Wigan quite easily if they concentrate. A 2-0 victory, but not at the usual Villa pace as the small squad struggles to recover from Boxing Day’s monstrous match.

    Next Fixtures:

    Next up for Villa is their first game of 2008, with a New Years day home tie against a resurgent Tottenham Hotspur side that the media seem to constantly remind us, are on a new diet. So it’s Spurs, 1st of January at the rather odd time of 5:20pm.