Friday 15 February 2019

Bruce believes experience is vital for Villains


Aston Villa boss Steve Bruce. Photo: REUTERS
Aston Villa boss Steve Bruce. Photo: REUTERS

Aston Villa boss Steve Bruce backed his players to handle the occasion as they continue to plot their promotion assault.

Villa hold a slender 1-0 lead over Middlesbrough ahead of tonight’s Sky Bet Championship play-off second leg in Birmingham.

Mile Jedinak’s header won it at the Riverside on Saturday as they look to end their two-year Premier League exile.

Bruce was appointed in October 2016, with Villa 19th, and has previously questioned the mentality and ability of some players to handle the pressure - although he expects no problems on Tuesday.

He said: “It’s a big club, history and tradition and you need big players.

“The ones we have brought in: (Ahmed) Elmohamady, John Terry, Mile Jedinak, all people who have bought the t-shirt and you know they will not get fazed.

“There have been a lot of players who have struggled to come to terms with playing for a big club. We’ve given ourselves an advantage, we’re playing against a very experienced team and experienced manager.

“We can’t take anything for granted; if we think we can show up and just put our boots on then we’re mistaken.

“We have to be as good as we were on Saturday.”

Elmohamady is a major doubt after suffering a hamstring injury in the first leg, with James Bree or Neil Taylor in line to replace him.

Bruce made no secret his first-leg strategy had been designed to limit Boro dangerman Adama Traore, something his players achieved with Alan Hutton with the help of Robert Snodgrass in particular largely nullifying the 22-year-old Spaniard.

However, Boro boss Tony Pulis is confident that his team can make more of Villa’s concentration on the winger as they attempt to stage a fightback.

Pulis said: “I thought we created good opportunities from other people on Saturday. Adama’s a massive threat for anybody in this league, so it’s important that we get the ball out to him at times a little bit quicker than we did on Saturday.”

Championship play-off semi-final second leg, Aston Villa v Middlesbrough, Live tonight Sky Sports, KO 7.45

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