Aston Villa Club Focus – Villa look to bounce back with a win in the Midlands derby

Alex McLeish has laid down the law. Known in his playing days for his fearless attitude to defending, the Scotsman has told his players that he will not tolerate the defensive frailties they showed against Manchester City in last weekend’s 4-1 defeat. That loss was the first defeat in the league for Villa this season and they will not be looking to lose for the second time in the derby against West Bromwich Albion this coming Saturday afternoon.

McLeish was raging over the ‘ridiculous’ goals Villa conceded against City and has stated that if they defended that way against Isthmian League side Dulwich Hamlet, they would have conceded goals. ‘Big Eck’ has refused to point blame at an individual player, but has been working hard all week in training to correct the errors showcased at the Etihad Stadium.

‘They were three ridiculous goals – set pieces where we weren’t doing our job and picking up. Quite simply, if that continues, it will be difficult for me to keep players in the team if they aren’t going to adhere to the instructions. I have told the players that. If you don’t pick up men when you’re supposed to, it could cost you your place in the team’, McLeish said.

Meticulous preparation is the staple of McLeish’s tactics and along with his coaching staff, the Villa boss revealed that he analyses the game DVD a couple of times to gain knowledge of what went wrong. McLeish would welcome the return of Welsh international defender James Collins to his back four, who has been struggling with a groin injury picked up whilst away with Wales.

Collins was back in light training earlier in the week and the club physios fully expect the 28 year old to be ready for action in Saturday’s game. The defender will not be joined in the Villa side by loan signing Jermaine Jenas, who has not featured since his transfer deadline day switch to Villa Park. Jenas picked up a Achilles injury in training and has been working hard to get back to full fitness.

Jenas is still four games off return, McLeish predicts, and the midfielder will be desperate to impress the Villa hierarchy and try and seal a move to Villa Park following a tough few seasons with Tottenham. The 28 year old could still find it tough to get into the central midfield at Villa and will have to displace either skipper Stiliyan Petrov, Fabian Delph or Stephen Ireland.

West Brom won the last fixture between these two sides back in April and Villa will be looking to avenge that defeat. Villa have lost just twice in their last 16 Premier League fixtures and will look for a home win to propel them further up the table. McLeish will be looking for a solid defensive performance and a clean sheet before letting his attacking players grab the headlines.

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