Aston Villa host Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon as Unai Emery hopes to see his side continue to improve our home form after a win last time out against Crystal Palace.
Villa picked up a point at West Ham last weekend, and although it was a hard-fought and decent draw on the road particularly given our poor recent record against them, we missed out on the opportunity to close the gap on the sides above us in the Premier League table.
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If we hope to break into the top half of the standings by the end of the season, we need to secure wins consistently, and this won’t be an easy task given Bournemouth’s win over Liverpool last time out as they continue to battle the threat of relegation.
In turn, we’ll have to be at our best, and that starts with Emery getting his Villa starting line-up spot on with it being the best possible XI to successfully overcome the challenge Bournemouth will present on Saturday.
One potential change to Villa XI by Emery
Emi Martinez will continue between the posts, and given our improved defensive performances in recent weeks, having conceded just one goal in our last three outings, Matty Cash, Ezri Konsa, Tyrone Mings and Alex Moreno should hopefully get the nod again in the backline, barring any late fitness concerns.
Emery has alternated between Moreno and Lucas Digne in recent weeks, but with the need for width, an attacking outlet and a different dynamic to unlock a potentially stubborn Bournemouth defence, Moreno could be a crucial piece in our build-up play to create openings.
Diego Carlos returned to the bench last weekend, and so it’s hoped we see the Brazilian ace on the sidelines again this week as he continues to work towards a return to action.
While it remains to be seen if there are any positive updates on the injury front with the likes of Leander Dendoncker and Philippe Coutinho absent for the past few games, their lack of involvement in recent weeks would suggest that they wouldn’t be ready to start even if they are available for selection.
With that in mind, Jacob Ramsey, Douglas Luiz, John McGinn and Emiliano Buendia will all likely start in midfield, but there could be a change on the right wing or perhaps in support of Ollie Watkins – who will no doubt continue to lead the line for us given his fine form – with Leon Bailey struggling to make an impact.
After scoring in Emery’s first game in charge, the Jamaican international has managed just one more goal and no assists in 12 league appearances since, and while he continues to play a significant role for the Spaniard to suggest that he values what he adds to the collective performance, it’s surely not enough in the final third as we need to do better in providing more impactful support for Watkins.
In turn, Bertrand Traore got minutes off the bench last time out and he could be a natural swap to try and inject more quality and creativity into the side, and that could be the likely option Emery goes with.
However, it’s perhaps fair to say that most Villa fans are itching to see more of Jhon Duran, and furthermore, alongside Watkins working as a partnership rather than just a late replacement for him in games, and so it would be exciting to see the young Colombian get his first big opportunity to impress from the start.
Time will tell if Emery believes he’s ready for that, but given what we’re seeing from Bailey, or rather what we’re not seeing from him currently, there surely will be a change there this weekend as we look to control and dominate the game at home, but also show quality in key moments to unlock Bournemouth’s defence.