Aston Villa face a difficult challenge away at Man City on Sunday evening as Unai Emery hopes to get a bounce back from his players.
Villa were left bitterly disappointed after a 4-2 defeat at home to Leicester City last weekend, a result which ended an impressive run of form in the Premier League through January.
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Although we now face a tricky run of fixtures which will be a real test for us, we’ve shown enough under Emery so far to suggest that if we perform to the level we’re capable of, we can give any side a tough game on our day and that includes the reigning champions.
With players returning from injury now and with versatility in the group, there could be changes to the Villa XI that started against Leicester, but it remains to be seen just how many Emery commits to as he may also want as much continuity and consistency as possible.
Cash, Moreno and McGinn in contention to start for Villa
After Ashley Young appeared to pick up a knock before coming off against Leicester, the wily veteran might be a doubt for this one and so that could open the door for Matty Cash to return to the Villa starting line-up.
Coupled with the fact that we need energy and pace in the full-back positions to deal with City’s threat down the flanks, it could be a sensible decision to restore Cash regardless of whether or not Young is fit to play.
It will be an important test for the Polish international if he does get the nod too, as he has been kept out of the XI by Young over the past month and so he’ll be itching to re-establish himself in the side.
Meanwhile, for similar reasons, there could be a change on the opposite side too with Alex Moreno hoping to displace Lucas Digne at left-back.
Moreno has great recovery pace and defensive diligence to perhaps give us more solidity in that area of the pitch, and we’ve seen plenty of what he could potentially offer on the counter attack down that left side with his pace and technical quality.
Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa are expected to continue in the middle, with Emiliano Martinez between the posts behind them.
Moving into midfield, Douglas Luiz and Boubacar Kamara will likely be the heartbeat of the Villa XI again, but there could be a reshuffle in the wide areas and in the final third.
With Leon Bailey’s inconsistency in front of goal in mind coupled with the need for Villa to have more tenacity and defensive presence in the midfield battle, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if John McGinn returned in this one and occupied the role on the right side of the midfield four.
That would see Jacob Ramsey move to the left, with Emiliano Buendia playing in a more advanced role as support behind Ollie Watkins who will no doubt lead the line for us again.
Such a system with the personnel noted would allow us the option of having players like Bailey, Philippe Coutinho and Jhon Duran to come on and influence the game if needed, but that is arguably a well-balanced Villa XI that not only could deal with Man City’s attacking threats better, but it could be ideal to cause them plenty of problems on the counter attack too as we try to pose a threat of our own.