Stubborn Villans worth backing on trip to Deepdale
Sky Bet Championship
Sky Sports Football, 7.45pm Wednesday
Aston Villa took a while to adjust to life in the Sky Bet Championship but they have found some consistency, losing just one of their last 11 league games, and are worth backing to defeat promotion rivals Preston at Deepdale.
After Villa started the season with two defeats in three games, questions were asked of manager Steve Bruce's suitability for the job.
But the pressure lifted with a 4-2 success at home to Norwich in mid-August and Villa have made steady progress since.
Bruce has always built his teams from the back and his influence on Villa is starting to show.
The Villans have conceded just four goals in their last nine league games and two of those came in a 2-0 loss at home to highflying Wolves.
Bruce will need his players to defend stoutly against Preston, who have played with a lot of energy and ambition and are deserving of their lofty position on the fringes of the playoffs.
However, Preston are on a four-match winless run and manager Alex Neil has a huge selection headache due to the absence of five defenders - injured quartet Tom Clarke, Greg Cunningham, Ben Davies and Tommy Spurr plus banned Paul Huntington.
They struggled defensively during Saturday's 3-2 loss at home to Brentford and that was with the help of Huntington, who collected his fifth yellow card of the season - triggering the one-match suspension.
Neil has little option but to persist with full-back Callum Woods at centre-back and hand a first start start of the season to Andrew Boyle.
Preston's makeshift defence may not have to cope with Villa's first choice centre-forward Jonathan Kodjia, who is an injury doubt.
But Villa have capable attackers Keinan Davis and Scott Hogan in reserve and can cause enough problems to secure their seventh league win of the season.
Aston Villa draw no bet
2pts 11-10 general
The home side are stretched defensively with four centre-backs injured (Tom Clarke, Greg Cunningham, Ben Davies and Tommy Spurr) and one suspended (Paul Huntington).
Gabby Agbonlahor (calf) and Andre Green are out but Jack Grealish (kidney) and Henri Lansbury (knee) could be back in contention after featuring for the under-23s. Jonathan Kodjia (ankle) is a doubt but Neil Taylor has completed a three-game ban.
Aston Villa have kept clean sheets in six of their last nine league matches.
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