Aston Villa face Nottingham Forest on Monday night, and Steven Gerrard could welcome back Matty Cash to the starting line-up after his recovery from injury.
Villa are currently on a three-game unbeaten run and while progress has been made defensively after a bitterly poor start to the season, improvements are still needed in our attacking play having scored just two goals in those three games.
With Forest struggling at the bottom of the Premier League table, this will be a big opportunity for us to get three important points, but it won’t be easy given they will be desperate for a vital win themselves with boss Steve Cooper under pressure.
In turn, we’ll have to maintain the level of defensive solidity and stability that we’ve displayed in recent fixtures, but we must also add a ruthlessness and end product to our play at the other end of the pitch too if we’re to climb the standings and start putting in convincing displays under Steven Gerrard.
Villa team news vs Forest
As per the Villa boss in his press conference on Friday, Lucas Digne and Ludwig Augustinsson are ruled out due to injury, and so they join long-term absentees Boubacar Kamara and Diego Carlos on the sidelines.
Gerrard also added that Leon Bailey is a doubt with a muscle injury but he isn’t ruled out at this stage, while there was more positive news with Cash back available having recovered from a hamstring issue and Calum Chambers could be passed fit to be involved too.
Those concerns aside, the rest of the squad should be at Gerrard’s disposal barring any late setbacks, but we certainly have depth and versatility to fill those voids and put out a strong XI.
Possible Villa XI vs Forest
Emiliano Martinez will continue between the posts, while Ezri Konsa should move back into a central position alongside Tyrone Mings with Cash expected to come back in at right-back. That will see Ashley Young shifted across to left-back to complete our backline.
Given the lack of an attacking threat from our midfield, there is a strong argument in favour of changes in that department this week, but ultimately the most realistic outcome is that Gerrard sticks with his favoured options with Jacob Ramsey, Douglas Luiz and John McGinn continuing in that department.
Leander Dendoncker, Morgan Sanson and Marvelous Nakamba should all be in contention and pushing for a chance, but it’s another thing entirely as to whether Gerrard will give them the opportunity to try and impress him.
Meanwhile, with Bailey a doubt, Emiliano Buendia should now be given a long overdue starting spot having continued to make a positive impact off the bench whenever involved. Similarly to the midfield though, it would come as no surprise if Gerrard stuck with Philippe Coutinho and Ollie Watkins to complete the attacking trident.
Coutinho has no goals or assists in eight appearances so far this season, while Watkins is without a goal in his last five outings.
Despite those concerning figures, Coutinho seemingly maintains the confidence of his boss, while Danny Ings struggles in this system as the lone striker with Watkins’ movement and work ethic allowing him to make a key contribution albeit without the all-important goals to go with that.
Time will tell what Gerrard goes with and whether or not he has any surprises in store for us, as although we should be pleased with the defensive improvements, there is still a lot of work to be done to find the right balance and show more creativity and quality in the final third.