Tuesday's home match against Queens Park Rangers is crucial for Aston Villa's season. We knew this before the loss to Manchester United, but a bad weekend of results means it's reeeeaaally a must win. Leicester City, QPR and Sunderland all won, and Burnley picked up a draw.
Saturday's game at Old Trafford can basically be written off, since a loss was inevitable. The only problem with it that I have is the second Ander Herrera goal, since it was definitely preventable and it hurts the goal difference. Maybe Villa were lucky that Christian Benteke's shot crept under David de Gea. It's not really important though, at least compared to Tuesday's six-pointer against QPR.
Last time the teams met, Harry Redknapp was still in charge and the Rangers won 2-0 at Loftus Road. Now, Chris Ramsey is the boss, and the R's have actually been able to win on the road. Twice in their last four actually, including Saturday's 4-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns.
One bright spot for QPR this season has been Charlie Austin. The striker had a goal and an assist in a man of the match performance against the Baggies. With 16 goals this year, Austin is the only reason QPR still have a chance to stay up. He's the key man and Jores Okore and Ciaran Clark will have to be at their best to stop him.
Against Manchester United, Villa's backline looked out of sorts. Some of this was due to Alan Hutton picking up an injury early on, and another part of it was Matt Lowton looking slightly uncomfortable at left back. Leandro Bacuna replaced Hutton and most likely will start on Tuesday, and Lowton will probably retain his place due to the injurypocalypse that's still a thing. Ron Vlaar is fit again, but why should he come back into the starting lineup? Even Nathan baker was subbed on before him against the Red Devils.
Since manager Tim Sherwood seems to like the 4-4-2, I'll imagine Villa will play in such a fashion against QPR. The Rangers play with the same shape, so it could come down to a battle in the midfield. Against United, Charles N'Zogbia and Andi Weimann started on the wings. This needs to change. Inexplicably, Carles Gil has been out of the lineup. He can't even get subbed in. The Spaniard was electric under Paul Lambert, and could provide a necessary spark. On the left, Scott Sinclair would offer a pace threat, and is more likely to find the back of the net than Weimann. Sinclair wasn't even on the bench against United, so I'm assuming Sherwood was keeping him fresh for this match. Tom Cleverley wasn't allowed to play against the team he's on loan from, but should return to the lineup and pair Fabian Delph in the middle of midfield.
Up front, Benteke retains his place alongside Gabby Agbonlahor. The partnership has been decent, especially since Benteke rediscovered how to be an actual goal threat. It's too bad Richard Dunne is still out with a knee injury for QPR, because it would be fantastic to see Gabby's pace against the former Villa defender. Regardless, his speed should threaten the Rangers' defensive line, and Benteke's renewed confidence has led to him trying more incisive passes. While these don't always come off, it's good to see as occasionally they can create a scoring opportunity.
Aston Villa (4-4-2):
Brad Guzan; Leandro Bacuna, Jores Okore, Ciaran Clark, Matt Lowton; Carles Gil, Tom Cleverley, Fabian Delph, Scott Sinclair; Christian Benteke, Gabby Agbonlahor.
Queens Park Rangers (4-4-2):
Robert Green; Mauricio Isla, Nedum Onuoha, Steven Caulker, Yun Suk-Young; Matty Phillips, Joey Barton, Sandro, Niko Kranjcar; Charlie Austin, Bobby Zamora.
What lineup would you go with if you were Tim Sherwood? Let us know in the comments!
Update: Due to Sinclair being injured, he will not play against QPR. Therefore, I'd like to see Jack Grealish play, but we will probably see Weimann or N'Zogbia.