Seventeen minutes into the Brighton match and it felt like the doldrums were showing cracks when Matty Cash put the opening point on the board. With Ollie Watkins 68th minute goal, it had crumbled. It was the first league win since January 22nd and it could not have come quicker. Consequently, this week’s opponents, Southampton, have not lost since traveling to the Midlands on January 15th, losing 3-1 to Wolverhampton Wanderers. The switch in formation to a 4-4-2 diamond seems to have done wonders for a small, but consequential cornucopia of concerns, and the question this week now changes to whether or not we will see continuity, however momentarily, with this new setup.
Southampton are regrettably good this season, which poses something of a concern going into the match. As previously mentioned, they haven’t lost since a 3-1 loss to Wolves at the Molineux. Their last three matches include a 2-0 home win over Everton, a 2-0 win at home over Norwich, and another home victory, beating West Ham United by a 3-1 scoreline in the FA Cup. Their last three road matches are less intimidating, but short of encouraging, with the loss to Wolves, a 3-2 road victory over Spurs, and a 1-1 draw at Manchester United. Top players to look out for include one-time Villa target, James Ward-Prowse, (Six goals on the season with four assists) in midfield, with Oriol Romeu, Kyle Walker-Peters at left-back, and Che Adams (Seven goals and two assists) at striker.
For Villa, the presumption is that Steven Gerrard will try to keep that positive momentum going with the diamond setup from last week. Emi Martinez will start in goal, with Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konza partnering at center-back. Lucas Digne will play at left-back, with Matty Cash, the Polish Cafu, at right-back. In the midfield, look to see Douglas Luiz continuing to start at holding midfield, with Jacob Ramsey and John McGinn playing to his left and right. Philippe Coutinho will play the 10 role, with Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings partnering up front.
PREDICTION: With the positivity and momentum from last week still feeling fresh, it’s hard to put head over heart, but Southampton are going to be a tough customer. Villa are on the upswing, but Southampton are absolutely on fire as of late, averaging two goals a game over the run of 14. My head screams “2-1 loss with Villa playing relatively well”, but that isn’t very much fun, is it? Let’s go with the gut and say it’s a 2-2 draw.