Aston Villa face Leeds Utd on Sunday in the first of three pre-season friendlies that form part of our preparations during our tour of Australia.
Villa picked up a win over Walsall last weekend, but with the internationals who had a late finish to last season given an extended break, the entire group has now been reunited Down Under and Steven Gerrard will have an almost full squad to choose from.
In turn, it promises to be a crucial period for him and his squad to get things right ahead of the new Premier League season getting underway on August 6, and these three upcoming friendlies will be a good test for us as we look to integrate our new signings and improve on our performances last season.
Gerrard is expected to go with something close to his strongest XI for this game, with the benefit of course of being able to make as many substitutions as he wants during the course of the encounter.
After getting a first look at Diego Carlos last time out at Walsall, the Brazilian defender will most likely get another run out here as he looks to continue to build an understanding and chemistry with the backline, particularly now with Emi Martinez, Matty Cash and Lucas Digne also being added around him.
With Ezri Konsa appearing to be involved in training sessions, it remains to be seen if he has recovered ahead of schedule from his knee injury and will get minutes in Australia, but the likelihood is that Tyrone Mings will continue next to Carlos in the heart of the Villa defence.
It’s a similar scenario in midfield as with John McGinn and Jacob Ramsey back with the group, they will no doubt be pushing to start and re-establish themselves in the starting XI, while summer signing Boubacar Kamara will hopefully get the nod in the No.6 role as he looks to cement his place in the Villa line-up moving forward.
Philippe Coutinho, Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins was the preferred attacking trio for Gerrard for the most part last season, and we could see that again in this one with the likes of Emiliano Buendia and Cameron Archer pushing for a bigger role, but such is the depth we have combined with the experimental nature of these games, time will tell which combination Gerrard goes with.
It promises to be an interesting week for Villa in Australia, and it’s hoped that we come away from the experience in a confident and better position than when we arrived, with Gerrard certainly putting the players through their paces in training ahead of this game.
Predicted Aston Villa XI vs Leeds: Martinez; Cash, Carlos, Mings, Digne; McGinn, Kamara, Ramsey; Coutinho; Watkins, Ings.
Second half Aston Villa XI: Olsen; Kesler-Hayden, Chambers, Feeney, Augustinsson; Douglas Luiz, Iroegbunam, Sanson; Buendia; Archer, Davis.