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Villama Preview: Aston Villa v Crystal Palace

Off the heels of an equally promising and frustrating 2-1 loss to Liverpool, Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa look to brush off the moss in tackling Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace. With Ollie Watkins doubtful, will we see Emi Buendia and Philippe Coutinho as dueling 10’s or will we have a surprise appearance by Bertrand Traore?

Things started off promising, with a goal three minutes in from Douglas Luiz, but it wasn’t enough to stop Liverpool and company from spoiling the day. On the whole, the scoreline and some questionable officiating were the only real sore points. Everything else, including Villa’s play, was admirable. On to this week, with Crystal Palace as the opponent. The Eagles are roughly on par with Aston Villa, one spot ahead in the Premier League Table in 11th. Over the past three matches, Palace drew at home to Leeds 0-0, bested Southampton 2-1 at Saint Mary’s, and secured a 1-0 win over Watford at Sellhurst Park. Top players to watch for include Conor Ghallager in the midfield and Wilfried Zaha and Odsonne Edouard up front.

FLASHBACK: Dean Smith’s men were full of purpose and were clinical when it mattered most, scoring two goals following the dismissal of Tyrone Mings in the 45th minute to secure a 3-0 victory at Villa Park last season.

With Ollie Watkins doubtful, there will be some adjustments to the Villa lineup this weekend. The major decision to be made will be whether or not to stick with the successful 4-4-2 diamond shape. If, and it’s an unlikely but not impossible if, the Villans stick with the diamond, then we could see a Danny Ings and Bertrand Traore partnership. That being said, and while I do strongly prefer two strikers to two number 10’s, we’re likely to see the 4-3-2-1 this weekend given the lack of depth at striker. Emi Martinez, once again, will grace the net, with Lucas Digne to his left and Matty Cash to his right. Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konza are likely to partner at center-back. In the midfield, Marvelous Nakamba should get a chance to start at the number six position, with Douglas Luiz and John McGinn flanking. Emi Buendia picked up a knock against Liverpool, but is expected to be available and will play opposite Philippe Coutinho while Danny Ings will start at striker.

PREDICTION: Villa are playing well again, even given Tuesday’s defeat, and the team should continue to do so despite some bad luck with injury. With Watkins looking like he’ll be more spectator than participant, a well played 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace is a reasonable expectation at this point in the season.

Aston Villa Training and Press Conference
Could Emi Buendia play a key role in Sunday’s proceedings at Villa Park?
Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images