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HOW THEY MATCH UP.

STRIKERS CLAYTON DONALDSON For the first time since he arrived at the club Donaldson is not an automatic first choice at Blues - Lukas Jutkiewicz has dominated the sole striker role for a few weeks. At 32-years-old, though, his energy and selflessness is admirable.

Key stat: Donaldson has missed two but scored three of his five penalties this season.

JONATHAN KODJIA Has three goals in his last three games. Could end up becoming the Championship's most-expensive player at PS15m and looks worth every penny right now.

Key stat: Villa's top goalscorer this season with four goals.

CHE ADAMS Has shown why Blues signed him with two brilliant finishes. He's still learning his trade, having played in several positions for the club, but looks an excellent prospect in his first season in the Championship.

Key Stat: The fee for Adams, which could rise to PS1.9m, could be Blues' biggest outlay for half a decade.

JORDAN AYEW A nuisance to play against, Ayew is skilful, creative and direct. The one criticism? He needs to release the ball more often when his team-mates are in better positions.

Key stat: Had a 100 per-cent pass completion success last weekend.

MIDFIELD DAVID COTTERILL The Welsh international looks to have bounced back with some good performances after being booed by some Blues supporters earlier this season.

Key stat: His three assists are the most of any Blues player despite a disrupted start to the season.

ALBERT ADOMAH The joker of the pack and an all-round freespirit. Adomah left the Premier League this summer to join Villa and he's starting to find his best form.

Key stat: Set up Villa's last two goals from open play.

MAIKEL KIEFTENBELD A bargain buy from Groningen last summer and has proved himself in the Championship. An all action midfielder credited by Rowett one of the fastest closers on a ball he's ever seen.

Key stat: Only QPR's Massimo Luongo averages more tackles per Championship game than Kieftenbeld's 3.5.

Mile Jedinak A proven performer in this division and a leader. Bruce sees him as a vital cog in his midfield. Needs two players alongside him to help him flourish.

Key stat: The oldest player in the team, aged 32.

STEPHEN GLEESON Has moved back on to the fringes of the Republic Ireland squad and has remained a key player in Gary Rowett's team despite being one of four senior central midfielders.

Key Stat: With 81.1 has the highest pass completion percentage of Blues' regulars - only Diego Fabbrini and Reece Brown have better ratios.

LEANDRO BACUNA Rejuvenated this season, Bacuna's passion has won over some of his doubters. The free-kick specialist uses his pace and power to great advantage. Needs a goal, though.

Key stat: Was Villa's second joint-top goalscorer in his first season at the club.

DAVID DAVIS Looked to be at the back of the queue when Blues signed Robert Tesche - but he's worked his way to the front with some incredibly committed displays. Has been so versatile this season too.

Key Stat: His two goals this season are already twice what he managed last.

GARY GARDNER Desperate to finally make the central midfield position his own after an injury-ravaged time at the club. Gardner is as hard-working as they come and Bruce will love that.

Key stat: The only boyhood Villa fan on the pitch at the weekend.

DEFENCE JONATHAN SPECTOR The American has been moved back to full back after Paul Caddis fell out of favour - having seemingly made a permanent switch to central defence. Blues really missed him in the one game he didn't play - a 3-1 loss at Forest. Key stat: Having arrived at Blues in August 2011 - he is the club's longest standing player, not including those who have come through the academy.

ALAN HUTTON Still fit as a fiddle, the right-back is back in favour under yet another Villa manager. Bruce had Hutton at Sunderland for a short period and remains a big fan of the forward-thinking full-back.

Key stat: Approaching 100 league appearances for Villa.

MICHAEL MORRISON The first man Gary Rowett brought to Blues when he took over and he has remained a fixture ever since. He carries the first team armband and has scored five times in the last year. Key stat: Morrison has played 460 senior games in league and non-league football yet is only 28. JAMES CHESTER The stand-in captain in Tommy Elphick's absence. Chester is a disciplined, hard-working defender who is enjoying life back at centre-half after a miserable spell at rivals, Albion. Key stat: Played under Bruce at Hull when the Tigers won promotion.

RYAN SHOTTON Came to Birmingham in the summer to be a long-term partner for Morrison - and has shown himself as capable of being just that. Has turned his career around since falling out of favour at Derby.

Key stat: At 6ft 3ins he is Blues' tallest outfield player.

NATHAN BAKER A no-nonsense centre-half who has helped steady the ship at Villa. This season he is showing his durability and stands a good chance of keeping his place even when Elphick returns.

Key stat: One of only two players expected to start who have progressed through the club's academy.

RHOYS WIGGINS Arrived on transfer deadline day on loan until January. Two months later he has played just five minutes of football. Indeed he hasn't stated a match since December last year. But Grounds' suspension has thrown him into the deep end.

Key stat: Sunday will be Wiggins' 200th league appearance.

JORDAN AMAVI Has worked on his defensive duties to make him a better all-round player these days. Amavi needs to remember how good he is going forward, though. His deliveries into the box are essential.

Key stat: Provided the assist for Rudy Gestede's winner in the last Second City derby.

GOALKEEPER OMASZ KUSZCZAK A return to the team for the biggest game of the season for the vastly experienced Pole. His eight matches out of the team was his longest spell since moving to Blues.

Key stat: Kuszczak's last two games for Blues were both clean sheets - at home to Norwich and at Fulham.

PIERLUIGI GOLLINI The Italian, 21, has settled into life at Villa after a difficult start. After recording a clean sheet and a penalty save in the last two games, the big man is full of confidence ahead of this clash.

Key stat: This will be his first-ever competitive derby in England.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Oct 30, 2016
Words:1073
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