Aston Villa take on Crystal Palace on Saturday with Steven Gerrard looking to make it two wins in two since taking charge.
Villa secured a much-needed win over Brighton last weekend to lift spirits following Dean Smith’s departure, but Gerrard was keen to immediately stress that his players must back up that result now as we aim to start moving up the Premier League table.
It will be a difficult task at Selhurst Park with Patrick Vieira’s side enjoying a positive start to the campaign, but it’s hoped that we have the required quality and belief to return home with all three points and to start to build some momentum after a stuttering few months to begin the season.
All eyes will be on Gerrard’s team selection again, as Villa are likely to go with a similar set-up as last time out, with a number of players who missed that game still working their way back to full fitness. Gerrard noted in his press conference on Friday that both Morgan Sanson and Douglas Luiz would travel, but are still short of match fitness which casts doubts over their chances of starting this one.
Nevertheless, with important and decisive impacts off the bench from our substitutes against Brighton, it will be interesting to see if any of that trio did enough to earn a starting berth.
Unchanged Villa XI could be best way to go
With Gerrard and the Villa squad still learning about each other and searching for consistency, that begins with his starting line-up and sticking with players to give him some sense of continuity.
Having had a full week on the training pitch this week to work with them and get his ideas across to start building an identity within the group, the Villa boss will no doubt be feeling much happier and more confident as he puts the building blocks in place for our success.
That said, he does still have big decisions to make, with Ashley Young, Anwar El Ghazi and Leon Bailey all coming off the bench to good effect last weekend and all pushing to be more heavily involved.
However, it would arguably make sense to stick with a winning formula, rely on those who started last time out to give us a strong foundation on which to build the win, and then use impact players off the bench again to help change things if needed.
That involves giving Emiliano Buendia and Danny Ings another chance to find some form and confidence after disappointing last time out, and giving ourselves an opportunity to build a settled back four, keep things tight again and kick on from there.
Such is the strength of the current Villa squad, we can change both shape and personnel if needed, and that flexibility could prove to be pivotal in what is expected to be a close, hard-fought encounter.