Aston Villa host Southampton on Friday night and Steven Gerrard has provided the latest team news with Emiliano Martinez and Ollie Watkins emerging as doubts.
Villa were last in action almost a fortnight ago as we battled to a draw with Man City at Villa Park, and while that was a timely boost for Gerrard with pressure mounting given our poor form to start the season, the Villa boss will hope that the momentum from that result hasn’t been lost in the time that’s gone by since.
This will undoubtedly be a different type of game as we look to try and get on the front foot more and be aggressive in front of our home fans as opposed to being defensive and allowing City to dominate possession last time out, and so that will present a new challenge for Gerrard and the players.
Southampton will not be a straight-forward test given the quality that Ralph Hassenhuttl has at his disposal. So we’ll have to be at our best to come away with three points and continue to build something as we try to turn things around under Gerrard, and start climbing the Premier League table.
Martinez, Watkins emerge as fitness doubts due to illness
As per Gerrard in his press conference on Thursday, both Martinez and Watkins have been ill this week and that in turn has forced them to miss training.
While the Villa boss sounded more optimistic about having Martinez available, as well as Robin Olsen who picked up a knee problem but should be on the bench on Friday, it doesn’t sound as promising for Watkins with a late call set to be made on whether or not he can feature.
That in turn will see Danny Ings come into contention to replace him up front, while Ashley Young will likely deputise for the injured Matty Cash after coming on and doing an excellent job against City.
Given our impressive performance and result last time out, Gerrard will likely want to avoid making too many changes and reward the players that earned that point, and so it may well be that Young and Ings are the only ones to come in.
That said, Leander Dendoncker is back from suffering with tonsillitis following his switch from Wolves last month, and so the Belgian could be putting pressure on captain John McGinn for his place in the Villa midfield.
Similarly, both Philippe Coutinho and Emiliano Buendia will be itching to get the nod, but ultimately Jacob Ramsey and Leon Bailey did well in our last outing, combining for our equaliser no less, and so this is where Gerrard should stick and not continue to rotate and make changes and simultaneously reward those who performed so well for him at the start of the month.
Time will tell if the below XI is what he goes with, but he knows better than anyone that while it was a great feeling to take a point against the defending champions, it will mean little in the bigger picture if we don’t now follow it up and kick-start our season properly against Southampton with a crucial win.
Gerrard fairly confident Emi Martinez (illness) will be available, Watkins perhaps bigger doubt with late call to be made so Ings in contention. Young in for injured Cash, Dendoncker pushing for McGinn's spot? Doubt he'll make too many changes to XI that faced City…#avfc #UTV pic.twitter.com/S7bOgcJ8VB
— Talk Villa (@thetalkvilla) September 15, 2022