The three biggest matches still to come in Aston Villa's rollercoaster campaign
COMMENT By Matt Farr
Football fans across England and Europe will be rejoicing at the imminent return of the domestic season, as the March international break nears its climax.
Aston Villa fans will be particularly eager to see their beloved side back in action in the Championship, after seeing their precious momentum halted.
The Championship club overturned a miserable run of form to win five of their last six league outings to lift themselves back into contention for a respectable league finish.
But their hopes of a late surge will be put to the test over the remaining eight games of their rollercoaster campaign, and Football Insider names their three potentially most important ties.
Norwich (home) – April 1
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Steve Bruce will have been paying little attention to the recent internationals and will instead have turned his attention to the club’s next game against Norwich on April 1.
Their meeting with the Championship’s eighth-placed side will be one of their most important, because it will be the first game back after the international break.
Some of Aston Villa’s stars will have been in action for their respective nations, but many members of the first-team squad will have had a prolonged rest from matchday action; and they will need to get their rhythm back quickly.
Bruce will have had them put through their paces on the training ground this week, but Aston Villa must pick up where they left off following their last win over Wigan.
It could be a slow start at Villa Park on Saturday, but it is important that the home side do the job required of them.
Queens Park Rangers (home) – April 4
With little time to dwell on their Norwich result, Aston Villa are swiftly back in action against Queens Park Rangers three days later.
Although there will be more challenging opponents to come this season, the visit from QPR will be an important one.
The immediate plan for Villa will be to put as much distance as they can between the sides nearest and below them in the table.
It is Ian Holloway’s QPR that are in the closest proximity to Villa this season, with just a one point deficit behind them.
The middle region of the Championship table is a tightly contested affair with just three points separating 10th from 15th, and each point will be invaluable as the season draws to a close.
Birmingham (home) – April 23
Meetings between Aston Villa and Birmingham are always a momentous occasion, because of their Midlands rivalry.
The fierce rivals have been starved of league meetings in recent seasons, but Villa’s presence in the second-tier this term re-lit the flame of one of England’s fiercest derbies.
The last meeting between the two sides ended in a 1-1 draw, but both sides will be keen to come out on top on this occasion.
However, there could also be much more at stake with just two league matches to follow.
If results go their way, Aston Villa could find themselves a shock contender for a play-off place, while Birmingham could be in a relegation scrap.
After all the fans have been through this season, the onus will be on Aston Villa to reward them with a derby victory.
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