Aston Villa begin the new Premier League season with a trip to Watford as Dean Smith and the squad start life without Jack Grealish.
Our former influential skipper moved on this summer, but after wrapping up some impressive transfer business of our own, the Villa squad has been improved and strengthened to maintain hope of breaking into the European qualification spots.
While it will no doubt be a difficult task, that is the aim for us this season as we continue to raise ambition and expectation, and starting the campaign well, as we did last year, will be imperative in achieving our objectives.
Newly-promoted Watford will naturally be desperate to make a positive start of their own especially in front of a packed crowd at Vicarage Road, and so this will be a tricky encounter for us, but with the quality and experience in the side, it’s hoped that we have enough to secure all three points.
- Watford have won six of our previous 10 encounters with them at Vicarage Road, with three ending in a draw and one resulting in a win for Villa.
- The Hornets have lost their opening league match just once in the last 14 seasons
- Villa have won four of their last five opening Premier League matches
- Watford had the best home record in the top four tiers of English football last season, winning 19 of their 23 games
- Watford have won their last nine home league games, their best ever home winning streak in their Football League history. They’ve won each of their last seven league matches at Vicarage Road without conceding
- Last meeting: A 2-1 win for Villa in dramatic circumstances as Ezri Konsa’s deflected effort sealed victory deep in injury time to help boost our survival hopes.
Speaking to the press on Friday, Smith noted that Emiliano Buendia has trained all week after recovering from a slight adductor injury and so is expected to feature. Further, Leon Bailey will travel to London with the squad and could be involved, but a late call will be made on Ollie Watkins after he sustained bruising to his bone around the knee in our last pre-season friendly against Salernitana.
As for the hosts, Joao Pedro, Joshua King and Nathaniel Chalobah all miss out, but Adam Masina and Domingos Quina will be available for selection.
Probable Villa XI vs Watford
There is still some uncertainty over how Villa will line up as the fitness of Watkins will be a big decision for Smith and the medical staff.
However, the back four along with Emiliano Martinez is set in stone if all fit, while John McGinn and Marvelous Nakamba have featured heavily throughout pre-season and should form the two-man midfield partnership in front of the defence.
Jaden Philogene-Bidace and Ashley Young have also logged big minutes in pre-season and so are arguably well placed to start, with Danny Ings expected to lead the line. With Buendia being passed fit, it’s hoped that we get to see the Argentine international make his competitive debut for us too.
Possible Villa XI vs Watford: Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; McGinn, Nakamba; Philogene-Bidace, Buendia, A. Young; Ings.