Aitor Karanka kicked off his Nottingham Forest reign in January with a home match against Steve Bruce’s Aston Villa, losing 1-0.
The side the Spaniard inherited mid-season had no hope of promotion, but he currently has them one place and one point off the Championship play-off places.
He has overseen an overhaul in the playing staff – which will be evident from how different the line-up he takes to Villa Park tonight – and has returned ambition to a club that was meandering before his arrival.
So tonight’s match against the same opponents – who of course have made a managerial change in the meantime, with Dean Smith having replaced Bruce – offers Karanka the opportunity to assess his side’s progress under his reign.
In Karanka’s first game, Villa’s superiour nous and togetherness earned them a 1-0 away win and Forest’s impressive away record means that he can take his side across the Midlands tonight with realistic hopes of clinching a similar result.
They have lost just once away from home in the Championship so far this season and while there are still some issues for Karanka to iron out, he has brought Forest a lot closer to where they need to be than they were when he arrived.