Aston Villa face Rennes in a pre-season friendly on Saturday and Steven Gerrard has key decisions to make as the Premier League season draws closer.
Villa have two behind-closed-doors friendlies scheduled in the coming week or so, but this trip to France is our final official pre-season outing following on from our win at Walsall as well as a successful tour of Australia.
While those games would have given Gerrard an opportunity to try new things and share minutes out amongst his squad to get everyone fully fit, his focus now is on getting the side that will face Bournemouth next Saturday ready and as sharp as possible.
With that in mind, the starting XI that lines up against Rennes could see a number of familiar and expected faces, although there might be one or two tweaks given the form some individuals have shown in pre-season thus far.
How Villa could line up vs Rennes
It’s expected that Emiliano Martinez will take his place between the posts, with Matty Cash and Lucas Digne deployed in the full-back roles as they’ll look to put in strong performances in this one, particularly the former with Kaine Kesler-Hayden impressing in pre-season thus far.
Gerrard has decisions to make in central defence, as while Ezri Konsa is still pushing for minutes following his return from injury, Tyrone Mings will also be keen to cement his place in the side. However, both Diego Carlos and Calum Chambers have played very well this summer, and there is a possibility that the pair will get the nod.
In midfield, new Villa captain John McGinn will no doubt be itching to lead the team out, while Boubacar Kamara and Jacob Ramsey could join him in midfield, although Douglas Luiz and Morgan Sanson will be knocking on the door to sneak in ahead of them.
The combination with both Ramsey and McGinn either side of Kamara hasn’t particularly worked well thus far, and so with Luiz or Sanson offering more technical quality and range of passing, they could provide a better balance in that area of the pitch and so that’s something Gerrard could, and perhaps should, try out.
There could be one key change in the final third though, as after his excellent impact off the bench against Man Utd in our last pre-season game in Australia, Leon Bailey may well have played his way into the starting line-up, and he could feature alongside Ollie Watkins and Philippe Coutinho.
Similarly to other areas of the squad, such is the level of competition now the likes of Emiliano Buendia, Danny Ings and Cameron Archer will hope that isn’t the case, or at the very least they get significant minutes in the second half to try and force their way into a bigger role at Bournemouth.
It promises to be an intriguing game, but also a very important one too as Villa and Gerrard will take a lot from this one leading into our Premier League opener at the Vitality Stadium next Saturday.