After recording a win at Stoke City on opening day last Saturday, Aston Villa will host Newcastle United at Villa Park in a game which may see duelling 4-2-3-1's. Villa boss Paul Lambert opted for the shape since Jores Okore was still unavailable due to injury, and it worked for a few reasons. Toon manager Alan Pardew used the formation against defending champions Manchester City, and although it was a 2-0 loss for Newcastle, they looked dangerous and can take some things away from a game not many would have fancied them to win anyways.
Lambert is likely to stick with this shape because it is very solid defensively. With the back four effectively stifling Stoke and the midfield having good interplay with the forwards, there are definitely reasons why we want to see it again. Aly Cissokho and Alan Hutton are not very attack minded fullbacks, but honestly they don't need to be. Kieran Richardson was effective going forward, and Charles N'Zogbia had his moments and surely will be improving with more match fitness after being out for a considerable amount of time. Andi Weimann was not influential the whole time, but popped up to score the game's only goal. I think Lambert will make two changes from last week's starting eleven, with Darren Bent coming in for Gabriel Agbonlahor as the lone striker, and new signing Carlos Sanchez in for Ashley Westwood in defensive midfield. Having a true defensive midfielder will allow Fabian Delph to get forward more, which has to be a plus.
Newcastle looked dangerous going forward, due to the power and pace of their midfield; specifically Moussa Sissoko and Remy Cabella. Sissoko was protected by the defensive midfield double pivot of Jack Colback and Vurnon Anita, so he was free to get forward more than he has in the past. This also allowed him to win the ball further forward and in more dangerous areas of the pitch. Cabella is definitely going to be influential for Newcastle this season, and they may have finally found a replacement for fellow French talisman Yohan Cabaye who left for PSG last January. Up front, lone striker Emmanuel Riviere continually got into dangerous positions, and his pace and movement off the ball was much better than the poor finishing that haunted him last Sunday. One bad game is unlikely to force Pardew's hand, and he could give Villa's backline a headache if he has his shooting boots on this Saturday.
The key matchup is going to come in the middle of midfield, as Cabella and Yann Gouffran like to cut in from the wings as well. Villa will have to make sure their wide players tuck in as well to make sure there isn't an imbalance in favour of the visitors. Whoever can win this battle (not necessarily dominating possession, key tackles and ball recoveries are important too) should win the match. Newcastle sat back and looked to counter against City, and that is a strategy Villa have used quite often under Lambert. Playing at home has been problematic too, especially when Villa attempt to take the game to the opposition but are unable to dictate the play.
Projected lineups: (Both 4-2-3-1)
What formation would you go with if you were Paul Lambert? Let us know in the comments!