Behind Enemy Lines: Aston Villa

MILLWALL face Aston Villa on Sunday when only a mountain of goals combined with Derby losing and Preston not winning will see them finish in the top six.

It will be a day for home fans to celebrate their players' achievements this season. Most people expected Neil Harris' side to be fighting relegation on the last day, but they have guaranteed a top-10 finish and will be at least looking to hold on to eighth when Steve Bruce's side travel to south Bermondsey on Sunday.

Villa have already ensured they will finish fourth and will most likely face Middlesbrough in the play-off semi-finals with a second leg at home.

The game between the sides earlier in the season ended in a 0-0 draw at Villa Park when David Martin made his league debut for Millwall.

Lucas Ball spoke to Matt Cutler this week.

Why do you support Aston Villa?

I grew up in Birmingham and it was in the family, so there was nothing I could do about it. It was decided before I was even born.

What's been your favourite season following the Villans?

In terms of excitement and intrigue, this one's up there. We had our best winning run in 30 years or so after all.

But I'd probably say 1998-99 under John Gregory when we were top of the Premier League at Christmas. We finished sixth, but we'd sold Dwight Yorke at the start of the season and wondered how on earth we were going to be able to cope without him, so it was a remarkable first few months.

How would you assess Villa's season as a whole?

It was a very slow start, but it all clicked around the New Year.

Since then we've played some great football. If Jack Grealish and Jonathan Kodjia had been fit for more of the season I think we would have gone up automatically.

But I can't have too many complaints.

If Villa were to miss out on promotion, what would they need to add to their side for next season?

Keeping our players who are Premier League-quality would be the priority: Sam Johnstone, Robert Snodgrass, James Chester and, dare I say it, Grealish.

With everyone fit, I think our team as it is is perfectly capable of winning the Championship.

How much has former Millwall man Lewis Grabban added to Bruce's side?

He's a tried and tested goal-scorer which is why I guess he's attracted so many loan deals from clubs needing guaranteed goals.

You can't complain about his finishing and goal tally since he joined (eight in 14 games) and he has really hit the ground running. No complaints at all, and I think we should try to sign him permanently regardless of what league we are in next season.

It looks likely that the Villans will face off against Middlesbrough in the play-offs – how confident are you?

We have the edge over Middlesbrough, and have a good league record against them, so I'm pretty confident we can beat them over two legs.

Fulham is the team I'm worried about – they were hands-down better than us when we played them at Craven Cottage earlier this year.

Who will be the danger men for the visitors?

Grealish – he's our creative spark, by far our best player, and arguably the best player in the Championship.

I also think Kodjia will start, and is due a goal – he's always a threat.

Which Millwall players will Villa be keeping an eye on?

Steve Morison and Lee Gregory have a great partnership up front and create a lot of goals for Millwall. I'm glad Ben Marshall has an injury as his delivery is excellent.

What's your predicted starting XI and formation?

It's hard to know whether Bruce will play a full strength team to keep legs fit as we go into the play-offs, or given them a rest. It'll probably be a combination of both. Something along the lines of:


Johnstone; Elmohamady, Chester, Jedinak, Hutton; Onomah, Whelan, Lansbury, Hourihane; Hogan, Kodjia.

Finally, a score prediction?

Really hard one to predict. I think it'll be a score draw. Millwall 2-2 Aston Villa – why not?

Graphic: @ShedCreative