It’s ‘all systems change’ at Villa Park as Aston Villa return to Premier League action under new manager Steven Gerrard to host Brighton.
The international break brought about the end of Dean Smith’s era in what was the biggest decision in the ownership of the club by NSWE with CEO Christian Purslow citing the dip in the results in 2021 as the primary factor behind the decision.
Gerrard comes in with an impressive record, turning around a beleaguered Rangers side from being in the shadow of rivals Celtic, to winning the league undefeated and back to back Europa League campaigns in which the club reached the last 16.
Having only had a week to get his feet under the table and with injuries and players coming back at different points from international duty, it will be a challenging first game.
The Villans desperately need a result soon following five defeats on the spin and a quick slide down the table which sees them sitting just two points and two places above the relegation zone.
Graham Potter’s men made a fantastic start to the season but have drawn five of the last six games. They find themselves in 7th with 17 points from 11 games which shows the improvements Potter has brought to the club.
What has stood out is the style of football and confidence in which they have shown and they will be a difficult opposition to kick start the Steven Gerrard reign.
Last season saw Brighton pick up a 2-1 win at Villa Park and the return fixture was a 0-0 draw.
Games between the two are usually closely contested with six league meetings since 2016 in either the Championship or the Premier League. Four of these finished draws and the other two were 2-1 wins (one for either side).
Aston Villa Team News
A season in which injuries have prevented Villa from consistent line ups continues but the added factor of Gerrard’s arrival means it may be tough to predict the team.
Many Villa fans are calling for John McGinn to play in a more advanced role like he does for Scotland but it’s the area behind in the CDM role that causes a potential headache.
Both Douglas Luiz and Morgan Sanson appear to miss out and there are doubts over Marvelous Nakamba too.
Danny Ings should return after bout of COVID and Ezri Konsa returns following suspension.
Bertrand Traore is likely to miss out again but Leon Bailey’s initial injury scare whilst on duty for Jamaica appears to have been nothing more than a minor concern.
Possible starting line up:
Martinez, Targett, Mings, Konsa, Cash, McGinn, Buendia, Ramsey, Bailey, Watkins, Ings
Brighton Team News
The Seagulls will be without goalkeeper Robert Sanchez through suspension and both Steven Alzate and Danny Welbeck will both miss out through injury.
Welbeck missing will be a positive for Villa as he has scored a career high of five goals against the Villans in the past.
Enock Mwepu will also be absent however positives for Graham Potter come in the faces of Dan Burn and Aaron Connolly being passed fit.
Possible starting line up:
Steele, Cucurella, Duffy, Dunk, Veltman, Lallana, Bissouma, Lamptey, Trossard, March, Maupay
One to watch:
A tough choice today as Neal Maupay is often a thorn in the Villa side and Leandro Trossard has been in good form, however today I have gone for Yves Bissouma.
With central midfield being a potential issue today, Bissouma will be a key figure throughout the game and he was one of the names on the lips of many Villa fans when the summer transfer window was open.
A strong, combative, box to box midfielder who although doesn’t score many, he pretty much does everything else there is to do.
A technical player that covers every blade of grass, Bissouma is often given more space and time on the ball when playing alongside a defensive partner.
Despite primarily playing as a no.8, he can adapt to play as a CDM and a box to box midfielder.
Potter’s favoured use of 3-4-3 or 3-4-2-1 provides a platform for Bissouma to control central areas and he is well known for breaking up attacks as well as being the focal point of starting attacks for Brighton too.
Villa will have to cut the space and opportunities for Bissouma as much as possible to give themselves the best chance of getting a result.
Head to Head record:
Aston Villa 13 wins, 9 Draws, Brighton 5 wins
Last five meetings:
13 Feb 2021 – Brighton 0-0 Aston Villa (Premier League)
21 Nov 2020 – Aston Villa 1-2 Brighton (Premier League)
18 Jan 2020 – Brighton 1-1 Aston Villa (Premier League)
19 Oct 2019 – Aston Villa 2-1 Brighton (Premier League)
25 Sep 2019 – Brighton 1-3 Aston Villa (League Cup)
AVILLAFAN MATCH PREDICTION
A very difficult fixture to predict with the new manager factor and uncertainty around line ups.
Central midfield will be key yet again (I feel like I put this every week!) but this highlights why we need a consistency and strength in that area as soon as possible.
A tight affair ahead but I have to be positive!
Aston Villa 2-1 Brighton
Tip of the day
If you back the 2-1 win for Villa, it is available at around 8/1 currently.
I feel like today is a big game for Emi Buendia and despite a low key start for Villa, he has shown flashes of his ability so I’m backing him to score at 4/1.
Combine the 2-1 and Buendia to score first and you can get 55/1.
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