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Match Preview: Tottenham v Villa - Huge test of mettle for Unai Emery’s side in North London

Can Villa get a first league away win in two months at this season’s pacesetters?

Aston Villa Training and Press Conference Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images

The Build-Up

Aston Villa’s season resumes after the international break as they head to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday to face Ange Postecoglou’s Spurs.

Both of these teams have enjoyed excellent starts to the 2023-24 season and they are both firmly in the race to finish in the Champions League places come May, sitting fourth and fifth heading into the weekend.

The North London side flew out of the blocks this season and were unbeaten in their opening 10 games of the campaign, with eight wins and two draws putting them top of the table before their home match with Chelsea three weeks ago.

Spurs’ unbeaten run was ended by their London rivals as they were beaten 4-1 and finished the match with only nine men after Cristian Romero and Destiny Udogie were both sent off.

Before the international break, the Lilywhites missed the chance to put pressure on the teams above them, as they fell to a second successive defeat. It came in calamitous fashion as they conceded twice in stoppage time to lose 2-1 away to Wolverhampton Wanderers after Brennan Johnson’s first goal for his new club had put them ahead in the first half.

Tottenham are hoping to avoid a third-straight defeat when they host Villa on Sunday. Should Postecoglou’s side claim three points, they could end the weekend in second place, depending on results elsewhere.

Unai Emery’s Villa recorded their 13th successive home win before the international break with a 3-1 success over Fulham. That victory was their 21st in 2023 in what has been a year of tremendous upward momentum for the Claret and Blues.

The Villans have only won twice on the road this season in the league, though, and only picked up one point from their two most recent away games against Nottingham Forest and Wolves.

Villa will need to improve their away form if they are to maintain a push for the Champions League places this term, with their last away win coming in late September against Chelsea.

The Villans have lost 14 of their 28 Premier League away games against Sunday’s opponents, although they do have happy recent memories of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, having won on two of their last three visits.

Their last trip to North London was a 2-0 win on New Year's Day, courtesy of goals from Emi Buendia and Douglas Luiz.

Tottenham Hotspur v Aston Villa - Premier League
Douglas Luiz scored a superb goal last time Villa travelled to Spurs on New Year’s Day last season.
Photo by Rob Newell - CameraSport via Getty Images

Spurs are unlikely to change the way they play in any game this season, so Villa will be looking to take advantage of the space behind the defence via the runs of Ollie Watkins and Moussa Diaby in attack.

John McGinn, Luiz, and Pau Torres will be tasked with playing balls through the Spurs midfield and opening up space for the forwards. McGinn in particular will be crucial for Villa as he will look to win the ball high up the field and start attacks in the Spurs half.

A win for the visitors on Sunday will lift them above their hosts and into the top four. Emery’s side could even go as high as second depending on other results.

Team News

Spurs are without several first-team players for the visit of Villa on Sunday, with star signing James Maddison being the most notable absentee with an ankle injury.

Micky van der Ven is out with a thigh injury whilst Romero and Yves Bissouma are both suspended.

As against Wolves, Ben Davies and Eric Dier are likely to fill in at centre-back in Van der Ven and Romero’s absences. The fit-again Rodrigo Bentancur will likely play alongside Pape Matar Sarr and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in the Tottenham midfield.

Brennan Johnson and Dejan Kulusevski will support Heung-Min Son in attack.

The hosts are also without Richarlison, Ryan Sessegnon, Manor Solomon, and Ivan Perisic due to groin, thigh, and knee injuries, respectively. Udogie will be assessed prior to the game after picking up a muscle injury in training.

Villa are boosted by the return of Jacob Ramsey and Alex Moreno from ankle and knee injuries, respectively.

Ramsey returned to training over the international break and Moreno featured in the last two matchday squads, although both players are unlikely to start on Sunday and may be introduced from the bench.

Diego Carlos picked up a knock against AZ Alkmaar and is out of Sunday’s game, whilst McGinn and Matty Cash will both have late fitness tests after they picked up knee and shoulder injuries over the international break.

Youri Tielemans may keep his place in midfield after impressing in recent showings against Alkmaar and Fulham.

Aston Villa v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League
Villa could get a huge boost with the return of Jacob Ramsey.
Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Likely Lineups

Tottenham Hotspur (4-3-3)

Vicario; Porro, Dier, Davies, Royal; Bentancur, Sarr, Hojbjerg; Kulusevski, Son, Johnson

Aston Villa (4-2-2-2)

Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Torres, Digne; Kamara, Luiz; McGinn, Tielemans; Watkins, Diaby

Score Prediction

An entertaining game is in store between two teams who like to attack and impose themselves on their opponents.

Tottenham being without both of their first-choice centre-halves, their main holding midfielder, and star man Maddison may tip the balance in Villa’s favour though, as Luiz and Kamara will be confident of winning the midfield battle, and Watkins and Diaby will fancy their chances against a makeshift back four.

Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 1 Aston Villa 2