So far under Tim Sherwood, we have seen three different formations. A 4-2-3-1 against Stoke City, a 4-3-3 against Newcastle United and in the FA Cup against West Bromwich Albion and a 4<4>2 against West Brom in the league. Two of these were wins, and two were losses, but it may not necessarily come down to the shape of the team.
Most recently, in the cup against West Brom, Christian Benteke was out. With only two strikers available, manager Tim Sherwood elected to start Gabby Agbonlahor as the lone striker in the 4-3-3, keeping Andi Weimann on the bench. Benteke faces a fitness test after returning from a hip injury, but still may only make the bench. With so few options available, it makes little sense to go with two up top.
Even more so when we look at how the wingers have been performing. Scott Sinclair is on fire, scoring three in four games. There isn't really a place for him in a shape with a diamond midfield. Charles N'Zogbia is slightly more versatile, starting behind the strikers as a number 10 in the league game against the Baggies, and playing on the right in the cup. Carles Gil hasn't featured lately under Sherwood, playing just under an hour against Stoke, and coming on for the final minute in the FA Cup match. He played on the right wing against Stoke though, and could be used there or centrally. He's more likely to play against Sunderland though, due to Jack Grealish's suspension after picking up a second yellow and being sent off.
The midfield trio of Ashley Westwood, Fabian Delph and Tom Cleverley worked well last time out too. Sherwood may elect to keep that together and stick with the 4-3-3. Defensively, we know that Ron Vlaar may not be fully fit even if he is back. Even if he is, should he start? Probably not, as Ciaran Clark and Jores Okore are playing well. The injury crisis is not limited to central defenders, and Aly Cissokho and Kieran Richardson are still out. Alan Hutton is serving the last game of his ban for yellow card accumulation, so Leandro Bacuna will play right back. Matt Lowton will start on the left, and Sherwood has said that Lowton "looks like he's been playing left back his whole life." I wouldn't go that far, but he has played well after being thrown into the position.
Sunderland have used a 4-1-4-1 for most of this season, but went with a 4-1-3-2 last time against Hull City, which ended 1-1. One reason for the switch could be due to manager Gus Poyet wanting more firepower, and another reason could be the suspension of Adam Johnson. Jermain Defoe has scored six goals against Aston Villa, and that's why I'm worried about him if he starts. The rest of the Black Cats' lineup isn't too frightening, especially considering they have only scored once in their last six matches against Villa - the 6-1 win two seasons ago.
Aston Villa (4-3-3):
Brad Guzan; Leandro Bacuna, Jores Okore, Ciaran Clark, Matt Lowton; Tom Cleverley, Ashley Westwood, Fabian Delph; Charles N'Zogbia, Gabby Agbonlahor, Scott Sinclair.
Costel Pantilimon; Santiago Vergini, John O'Shea, Wes Brown, Patrick van Aanholt; Lee Cattermole; Sebastian Larsson, Liam Bridcutt, Jack Rodwell; Jermain Defoe, Steven Fletcher.
Should Villa stick with the 4-3-3 or go back to the diamond? Let us know in the comments!