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Three to Watch: Aston Villa (H)

Ahead of Reading’s clash with Aston Villa, Jack Simpson takes a look at three players from the Villans to keep an eye on.

Fulham v Aston Villa - Sky Bet Championship
This man scored against Reading last season
Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

James Chester

Despite the summer arrival of John Terry, the more important player to watch at the back for Aston Villa could be James Chester.

Playing at centre-back, the former Manchester United academy product is one of the first names on the Villa team-sheet. Last season Chester made 45 Championship appearances, scoring three goals and found the back of the net against Reading during last season’s memorable encounter at Villa Park.

The defender’s passing stats are striking to look at, with a pass completion rate of 80% and making an average of 34.3 passes per 90 minutes (according to WhoScored).

His defensive stats are also fairly impressive. For example, during the last campaign Chester made an average of 1.6 tackles per game and 7.4 clearances per game, that’s not bad considering Villa conceded 47 goals in the league last season. Additionally, Chester made 1.6 interceptions per game, as well as winning 58% of his duels.

Therefore the likes of John Swift and Liam Kelly could find life difficult, if the midfield magicians try playing balls in behind the Villa defence which is likely to sit deeper than usual.

Secondly, with the 28 year old winning the majority of his duels as previously mentioned, presumed starter Joseph Mendes could find it tough in terms of winning the aerial encounters and holding the ball up for his side.

Glenn Whelan

The Republic of Ireland international is another new man at Villa Park, having completed a transfer from Stoke earlier this summer.

Playing as a defensive midfielder, Whelan operates as an anchor protecting the Villa defence and providing steel in the middle of the park.

Firstly, lets take a look at his defensive stats which are fairly impressive. In his 30 Premier League appearances last season for his former side, Whelan made an average of 1.5 tackles per game and 1.2 interceptions per game.

Secondly, the former Sheffield Wednesday man had a 84.5% pass completion, which demonstrates his fantastic ability at keeping the ball and distributing efficiently - especially in tight areas of the pitch.

That's not bad for someone who is now 33 and approaching the final years of his playing career.

This along with Chester making 1.6 interceptions per game (as previously mentioned) means it could be a tough night for Reading’s creative players. Which is exactly what happened against 10 man Fulham where the Royals struggled to break down the Cottagers’ defence that was as tough as a brick wall.

Therefore the battle between Swift and Whelan will be a key one, if either side are to break their drought and claim their first win of the season.

Scott Hogan

The final player that Reading fans should keep an eye on is Scott Hogan. The 25 year old had a fantastic season in the last campaign with 15 goals and three assists in 38 Championship appearances. Hogan also has a bit of history against the Royals having found the back of the net, when his former club Brentford smashed Reading 4-1 at Griffin Park.

It is worth noting however, that 14 of those goals were for the Bees before he completed a £9 million move to Villa Park in the January transfer window.

As a striker his offensive stats are fairly impressive. For example whilst at Brentford in the last six months of his time in West London, Hogan managed to average 2.8 shots per game, generally preferring to take those efforts on his right foot.

However, during his first six months at Villa, Hogan’s form declined with one goal in 13 appearances. He also managed to average just 0.8 shots per game - a big drop-off.

Despite Hogan being out of form and lacking confidence, I’m sure that the former Rochdale man will be fired up as he looks to kick start his Aston Villa career against a Reading defence that has looked disorganised in recent weeks.

Therefore the likes of Paul McShane and Liam Moore will have a do a good job at keeping Hogan quiet and make sure that he doesn't have any space in which to get a shot away on Vito Mannone’s goal.

If the Royals can do this then it could be the difference between winning the three points or another frustrating night at the office.