What a wild affair Tuesday's Capital One Cup match was. It may have went to extra time, but Aston Villa still found the back of the net five times. Sure it was against Notts County, but Scott Sinclair still hit a hat trick in the win. For all the free-scoring prowess that this side showed, it's time to dial it back as Premier League football returns with the Villans hosting Sunderland on Saturday.
Let's start by discussing the midfield, or rather lack thereof. The only non attack-minded player deployed was Jordan Veretout. Carles Gil, Jack Grealish and Adama Traoré comprised the rest of the midfield, and even against a League Two side, it was too aggressive. It was great that Idrissa Gana and Ashley Westwood got some much-needed rest, they'll be needed against the Black Cats this weekend.
Fatigue may be a factor to consider here as well, as the cup tie did go 120 minutes. Carlos Sánchez played in defence, but it's possible we could see him behind Westwood and Gana again, if manager Tim Sherwood reverts to the diamond. I'm still unsure what formation I like this team in best, and Sherwood might feel similarly. Plenty of new faces have come into this club recently, and there is a definite lack in familiarity between the players.
Defensively, both Ciaran Clark and Micah Richards got the day off against County, so expect to see them back in. The same can be said for Brad Guzan, Jordan Amavi and Leandro Bacuna. Joe Bennett impressed late on, and may have moved ahead of Kieran Richardson on the depth chart. He's someone that could be utilised in midfield also, if a wide 4-4-2 is the formation.
Hopefully Sunderland exhausted all of their goals for the near future in a 6-3 victory over Exeter City in the cup. Villa's defence doesn't quite have the utmost confidence after shipping a sloppy goal to Bakary Sako that proved to be decisive in the most recent league fixture. Jack Rodwell bagged a brace for the Mackems, while Jermain Defoe added three of his own.
It was also 3-3 for the Roker Men at one point during the match, although unlike the Claret and Blues, they did not require extra time to defeat their respective lower league foe. That's an advantage Dick Advocaat's side will need, as they've been dreadful so far this campaign.
Going back to Villa, the only area I haven't yet addressed is the attack. Rudy Gestede and Gabby Agbonlahor didn't see any time in the League Cup, so expect to see them used. Scott Sinclair showed why he deserves to play with that three-goal performance, but he also played two hours of football on Tuesday, so he might be resigned to the bench. The same goes for Jack Grealish, who looks to get better with each week. I sure hope we don't see the return of a two-striker formation, because that would mean Agbonlahor. Even if it's 4-3-3 -- which I think it will be -- there's a good chance he's in there.
Key moments will come in midfield. I'm confident enough in Gana's ball winning ability and Westy's vision and passing ability that Villa can have as much possession that they'll need to be successful in this match. Just over half should do, provided the chances created can be converted. Either Grealish or Carles Gil need to play if any of these opportunities are desired though, as Villa don't have a whole lot of outlets in that department.
Sunderland aren't particularly difficult to break down, but with strikers like Defoe, they're always likely to finish a half-chance. For this reason, the Lions' defence needs to stay on their toes, while the attack, as previously mentioned, needs to capitalise on any chance they are afforded. It's the main reason I don't want to see Agbonlahor; because he isn't clinical. But, he most likely will be involved.
Aston Villa (4-3-3):
Brad Guzan; Leandro Bacuna, Micah Richards, Ciaran Clark, Jordan Amavi; Ashley Westwood, Idrissa Gana, Jack Grealish; Scott Sinclair, Rudy Gestede, Gabby Agbonlahor.
Costel Pantilimon; Adam Matthews, Sebastian Coates, John O'Shea, Patrick van Aanholt; Lee Cattermole; Sebastian Larsson, Yann M'Vila, Jack Rodwell, Jeremain Lens; Jermain Defoe.
Who would you start if you were Tim Sherwood? Does anything about Sunderland worry you? Let us know in the comments!