As mentioned in both the weekly Power Rankings and a look at the Week 15 slate, Championship clubs are playing twice this week. In the spirit of that, I will be highlighting a “Match of the Day” from three of the days with multiple matches.
Yesterday, we took a look at Preston North End and Middlesbrough, which ended in a 1-1 draw after Middlesbrough evened it up just after half time. So much for my predicted clean sheet. Boro dropped a spot into third place because of Leeds United’s victory over Reading, while Preston North End moved up a spot into 15th.
Today, it appears that the premier match of the day is Aston Villa playing host to Nottingham Forest. Forest currently has the upper hand on Villa, who is trying to finish in the playoff zone for the second consecutive season (followed by a return to the Premier League for the first time since 2015-2016. A return to the Premier League for Forest would be their first trip since the 1998-99 season.
Villa has won its last three matches – albeit after a short two match losing streak – while Forest is unbeaten in its last five (3-2-0). Will the clubs continue streaking, or will one prevail and walk away with the three points?
Let’s take a look at the clubs:
Aston Villa has gone 7-6-5 on the season with a solid +6 goal differential, with much more success at home. They are 5-3-1 at home with a +7 GD, and 2-3-4 on the road with a -1 GD. That’s good enough for 27 points on the season, which leaves them three points behind Forest in 8th place, ahead of Queens Park Rangers based on goal differential.
Nottingham Forest has had more success avoiding losses, though they have the same amount of wins, with an overall record of 7-9-2 and an even better +9 GD. They have roughly the same record at home as away – 4-4-1 (+3 GD) at home versus 3-5-1 (+6 GD). They have 30 points on the season, placing them one point behind Derby County and one spot outside of the promotion playoff.
Opponents in Common
We’re fortunate this late in the season that of the 18 matches each team has played, they have 14 opponents in common. And in those 14 matches, Nottingham Forest has performed slightly better.
Forest is 6-6-2 in those 14 matches, sharing wins with Villa against Bolton Wanderers, Hull City, and Rotherham United. Aston Villa, on the other hand, is 6-4-4 against the same teams, with perhaps the primary difference being its two losses against the Sheffield clubs – Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday – including an ugly 4-1 loss in Sheffield against United.
Forest’s other three wins came against the aforementioned Sheffield clubs and Reading, a club that Villa drew. Villa’s other three wins were against Swansea City, Birmingham City, and Wigan Athletic. However, Nottingham Forest was able to draw against those three clubs, which led to the two point improvement over Aston Villa in these 14 contests.
Club Strengths & Weaknesses
Nottingham Forest is like Middlesbrough yesterday in that they find strength in their defense. They are second in the Championship with 16 goals against (0.89 per match), and have accumulated eight cleansheets, including their last three matches. Romanian national Costel Pantilimon has all eight of those clean sheets – ranking second in the league – and has been in goal for all 18 Championship league matches on the season.
They are a bit more proficient on the offensive side of things than Boro, however, ranking 9th in the league with 25 goals (1.39 per match). Center forward Lewis Grabban has scored 10 goals (with two assists) in 17 league matches, placing him second in the league in scoring.
Aston Villa, on the other hand, needs to score a bit more because they have surrendered a league average 25 goals on the season. They’ve taken take more of a “goal scoring by committee” approach in their 31 goals, with eight players with at least two goals thus far, and are led by Chelsea-loanee Tammy Abraham, who has five goals (and an assist).
How I See It
Over the past two seasons, Aston Villa has had the upper hand in the matchup, with a 2-1-1 record against Forest during that time. This small sample size is not enough to tip the scale in Villa’s favor, however.
Villa has been a different club this season at Villa Park, and I think hosting this match will be enough to give them the leg up on Forest. In my opinion, Forest has been playing close to the edge all season, as evidenced by having the most draws thus far in the Championship (tied with Birmingham City).
I think their luck runs out in this one, though it will probably look like another draw for around 70 minutes before someone from Villa pushes through a winner. A one goal win, however, will not be enough to move Villa past Forest in the standings, and they will remain behind on goal differential.
My prediction: Aston Villa 2 – 1 Nottingham Forest
Until next time…