Last Saturday, Aston Villa hosted Chelsea and lost by just a goal. A 2-1 loss against the top team in the league was a very encouraging performance, and one to build on. Christian Benteke had been dropped from the lineup, yet the team got on just fine without him for the 68 minutes he was on the bench.
For a couple of weeks some of us at 7500toHolte thought it was a good idea to drop him from the starting eleven, just for the sake of change. He hasn't looked the same player this season, but then again, no one on Villa has looked likely to score goals. Maybe now that the goal duck has been broken after 659 minutes the squad has gained a confidence boost. They'll need it against Hull City.
Tuesday's matchup is a crucial six-pointer. Lose it, and Hull move a point ahead of Villa in the table. Win it and we could see Lambert's side move as high as 14th. More importantly, it could set the tone for a string of matches that are sure to define the season. After Hull City, Villa play Stoke City, Newcastle, West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland and Swansea City. Go winless in those fixtures and relegation is almost a certainty (I doubt 6 draws would happen, but that is a scenario in which Villa may stay up). For this reason, a win at the KC Stadium is necessary and manager Paul Lambert needs to come out with guns blazing. Therefore, Benteke needs to return to the starting lineup.
Against Chelsea, Villa's goal was produced by a Carles Gil cross that found Jores Okore at the back post. On the day, the Villans attempted 36 crosses but completed just seven. With a striker that is more of an aerial threat than either Gabby Agbonlahor or Andi Weimann, more of these crosses may have connected therefore leading to more chances. With Gil on one wing, and potentially Scott Sinclair on the other, more good opportunities should come to cross the ball. Luckily, we won't be seeing Branislav Ivanović this time.
The 4-5-1 shape was effective and should be kept, as long as Tom Cleverley is dropped. Bringing Carlos Sánchez back into the lineup would be smart. Another option would be the 4-4-2, as Weimann or Agbonlahor would then partner the big Belgian up top. Either way, I'd start Sinclair on the left wing with Gil on the right.
Although they conceded two goals, it was still a good performance by the backline. Granted, on Eden Hazard's goal, he wasn't marked particularly well by Alan Hutton and nor was Willian who delivered the pass. I'd keep the same back four against Hull.
In their most recent fixture, Hull managed a point against Manchester City. It would have been three if not for James Milner's stoppage time free kick. The Tigers went with a 3-4-2-1 shape, but manager Steve Bruce likes to rotate his side meaning it's unlikely we'll see the same formation on Tuesday. Also, it's likely that the tactics chosen there were designed to contain a side like City, and a different approach will be made against a team like Villa. Nikica Jelavić and Abel Hernández were given the day off, but we will probably see one if not both in the coming match.
Aston Villa (4-5-1):
Brad Guzan; Alan Hutton, Jores Okore, Ciaran Clark, Aly Cissokho; Carles Gil, Ashley Westwood, Carlos Sánchez, Fabian Delph, Scott Sinclair; Christian Benteke.
Hull City (4-4-2)
Allan McGregor; Ahmed Elmohamady, Michael Dawson, Curtis Davies, Andrew Robertson; David Meyler, Jake Livermore, Tom Huddlestone, Gaston Ramirez; Nikica Jelavić, Abel Hernández.
What would you do if you were Lambert? Let us know in the comments!