By Danny Wright
Aston Villa are expected to make four changes to their side to face Birmingham at Villa Park on Sunday.
Steve Bruce made wholesale alterations for Monday’s loss to Fulham but is likely to revert back to a more familiar XI after the 3-1 away defeat.
Tommy Elphick is expected to be one of the more notable players axed from the squad after the defender put in a horrific performance against the promotion-chasing Cottagers.
Jonathan Kodjia will serve a one-match ban for his red card in the Fulham defeat while Gary Gardner and James Bree are likely to join Elphick on the sidelines.
These changes could open the door for Alan Hutton, Conor Hourihane, Henri Lansbury and Albert Adomah to return to Bruce’s starting line-up, which may adopt a more familiar 4-3-3 after he experimented with three at the back at Craven Cottage.
Sam Johstone is expected to retain his No 1 spot after an impressive loan stint at Villa Park while James Chester, Nathan Baker and Jordan Amavi could make up the rest of the back four with right-back Hutton.
Amavi has been used on the left wing in his most recent appearances but could be forced to play a full-back role as doubts surround the fitness of Neil Taylor.
Mile Jedinak is set to play in the deeper role of the midfield three with Hourihane and Lansbury.
Jack Grealish found the net against Fulham and is expected to play on the left wing, while Adomah could return on the opposite flank.
Scott Hogan could be played as the lone striker in Kodjia’s absence, but Villa have only won two of their games in which the Ivorian international has not scored in since January.
Bruce and his men know that a win against Birmingham could put their second-city rivals in the Championship’s relegation zone, providing Nottingham Forest and Blackburn win their respective fixtures.
Villa can move up as high as tenth with a victory, but would take a huge swing in goal difference to move above Preston, who have 61 points.
In other Aston Villa news, Birmingham boss Harry Redknapp has made a big statement about Villa fans.