Following the Blues’ first league defeat of the campaign at Ipswich on Saturday, attention now turns to the Papa John’s Trophy and it’s the Aston Villa Under-21s who make the trip down to Fratton Park.
Pompey opened the group stage of this season’s competition with a 2-2 draw with Crawley on August 30th, picking up a point on their travels but losing the bonus point following an unsuccessful penalty shootout.
Here’s a closer look into the side who compete in Premier League 2, the academy equivalent of England’s top flight of football.
The young Villans are managed by 46-year-old Tony Carss.
The Northumberland-born coach, who represented the likes of Darlington, Oldham Athletic and Huddersfield Town across a 12-year midfield career, took charge of the Villa Under-21s in June of this year, departing his role as Head of Coaching with the Blackburn Rovers academy.
Carss retired from playing in 2006 after 3 years with Huddersfield and immediately took up a coaching role with the club, spending 11 seasons at the helm of their Under-18s side, before having a short stint as Head of Coaching in 2017 before moving to Ewood Park.
ONE TO WATCH
Midfielder Taylor Jay-Hart is our one to watch this time around.
The 18-year-old has featured in 4 of Villa’s 5 Premier League 2 fixtures so far this season and played the full 90 minutes against Wimbledon in the opening group stage fixture of this year’s trophy, scoring his side’s only goal of the game.
57 is the shirt number that Jay-Hart is expected to be wearing this week.
Wide midfielder Declan Frith is currently the Villa Under-21s leading scorer in Premier League 2 with 4 goals alongside his name.
The 20-year-old, who was born in May 2002, left the Chelsea youth setup last August having made just a handful of appearances, signing a pro deal with Aston Villa and becoming an important member of their Under-21 side.
Frith has made an appearance in this competition before, lining up for Chelsea against Exeter City a few seasons back, however was an unused substitute in Villa’s only previous game in the competition this season.
If he does feature at PO4, he will likely be wearing his usual squad number 67.
After 1 game in the Papa John’s Trophy this season, the Aston Villa Under-21s sit bottom of the group with 0 points, having been defeated by 2 goals to 1 at Plough Lane by Wimbledon at the end of August.
If the Blues beat them this week, they will be unable to progress even if they beat Crawley in their third and final outing.
In the Premier League 2, Villa occupy 7th place in Group 2 after 5 matches played. 2 sides gain promotion to Group 1 each season with the winner of the division going up automatically and sides placed 2nd to 4th competing in a Play-Off.
Tony Carss’ side have accumulated 5 points so far, having picked up 1 win, 2 draws and 3 defeats - Both of those stalemates have ended 3 a piece!
Across all competitions, the Villa Under-21s are winless in 5, last tasting victory on August 15th after a 4-0 league win away at Sunderland.
Their previous game ended in a heavy 6-2 defeat at home to local rivals West Bromwich Albion, with the aforementioned Declan Frith on the scoresheet and Filip Marshall receiving a straight red card in first half injury time.
So can the Blues return to winning ways and keep their trophy progression hopes alive, or will the Aston Villa Under-21s end their unwanted winless streak?
All of the unmissable action here on 93.7 Express FM from 7 O'Clock this evening as Pompey Live returns with Robbie James, Jake Smith and Henry Deacon!