Monday night's trip to White Hart Lane will be caretaker boss Kevin MacDonald's second game in charge of Aston Villa. Against Tottenham Hotspur, we can expect to see a different set of players than the group that lost 2-1 to Southampton in the League Cup last week.
Although it's likely that MacDonald could return to the 4-4-2, it would be somewhat surprising to see all four fullbacks on the roster used again. Alan Hutton, Kieran Richardson, Leandro Bacuna and Jordan Amavi all began the cup match on the pitch for Villa. Bacuna and Amavi were deployed in midfield, and both were withdrawn about midway through the second half, with Villa chasing a goal.
Up top, we saw a striker pairing of Gabby Agbonlahor and Rudy Gestede. Jordan Ayew came on as a sub, as did Scott Sinclair. MacDonald may choose to start the latter two, as the strategy of crossing in to the big man Gestede hasn't exactly worked wonders.
Carlos Sánchez and Ashley Westwood completed the midfield, making for a very defensive starting eleven. Playing defensively is by no means a bad thing, as even taking a point on the road against a Tottenham team in good form would be something this team could build on.
Of course much of this comes down to the back four, a part of this team that hasn't been able to establish itself as a model of consistency this campaign. Ciaran Clark and José Crespo were the pairing in the cup match, but Micah Richards figures to be back in action against Spurs. Hopefully MacDonald doesn't use Joleon Lescott, as he hasn't been reliable. If goalkeeper Brad Guzan were to step up, that would also be a huge boost for this team.
Spurs are coming off a great performance, a 5-1 win over Bournemouth. Star striker Harry Kane struggled early on this year, but looks to have rediscovered his form from last year. Coupled with the midfield dynamism of Christian Eriksen, Spurs look to be a team that could legitimately challenge for a top four spot this season.
Tottenham are very solid at the back too. Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld are two excellent central defenders, and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is one of the best in the league, and all of Europe. An area that's vulnerable in Mauricio Pochettino's team could be defensive midfield, if only because Dele Alli and Eric Dier aren't the most experienced of players.
Wing play will also be crucial, and whoever Villa's fullbacks are will be tasked with shutting down Erik Lamela and possibly Andros Townsend or the aforementioned Eriksen. Obviously this has been a problem area this year for Villa, most recently in the Swansea game, as the winning goal came from a wide area.
Aston Villa (4-4-2):
Brad Guzan; Alan Hutton, Micah Richards, Ciaran Clark, Jordan Amavi; Leandro Bacuna, Carlos Sánchez; Idrissa Gana Gueye, Jack Grealish; Jordan Ayew, Scott Sinclair.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-2-3-1):
Hugo Lloris; Kyle Walker, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose; Eric Dier, Dele Alli; Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen, Andros Townsend; Harry Kane.
Who would you start if you were Kevin MacDonald? Let us know in the comments!
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