Coming off of the 3-1 win over Hull City this past weekend, the mood around Aston Villa has vastly improved as Premier League safety for next season has been all-but secured. Villa travel to the Etihad to take on odds-on title favorite Manchester City.
Despite two-goal hero Andi Weimann finally rediscovering form last Saturday, the Citizens attacking firepower greatly outstrips that of the Villans. Edin Džeko has three goals in his last two matches. Fortunately, Sergio Agüero, scorer of 17 this season, is out of the lineup. Stevan Jovetić or Álvaro Negredo will slot in. Lately, City boss Manuel Pelligrini has been playing a 4-4-2, so if Villa manager Paul Lambert wants to bust out a formation with three at back, now would be the time to do so. When a team uses a formation with two central forwards, having three center backs leaves an extra defender free, giving the defensive side the advantage in that area of the pitch. For a detailed analysis, check this out on how the shapes create matchup problems for each other.
Unfortunately, playing a 3-5-2, means that there is no right winger position. Using a 3-4-3 with wingbacks would allow Marc Albrighton to play on the right. With Weimann deployed centrally it leaves just one selection issue really, who to put on the left. Gabriel Agbonlahor is out of lineup injured. His replacement last Saturday was Jordan Bowery, a player who has taken a lot of flak but played well for over an hour despite unluckily scoring an own-goal. He would be an option, but I think of Bowery more as a target man and less as a wide forward. The other choice is Aleksander Tonev. I think Tonev has improved a lot over the course of the season, and in a match with a lot to gain in TV monies attacking intent may pay off, so why not see what he can do. I've gone for a 3-4-3, and here is the projected 18-man squad.
Subs from: Steer, El Ahmadi, Bowery, Robinson, Baker, Luna, Sylla
What lineup would you choose if you were Lambert? Let us know in the comments!