It’s back to Villa Park on Saturday as Aston Villa host Crystal Palace in what is set up to be another tough 90 minutes. The Villa will be looking to get back to winning ways after a lacklustre performance last time out at Anfield. A positive coming into this fixture is that Villa Park is officially a fortress as Villa have won their past nine fixtures at the iconic ground. The Eagles will have to fly high if they want to get anything out of this one.
From a Villa perspective, no disrespect to Palace, but these are the games that we must come out of with maximum points if we have the same aspirations as to what the club achieved last season. We know that Unai has come out and repeated many times that the Premier League is his main priority so we can expect Villa to not be tamed on Saturday. However, after two standout, unconvincing performances against Newcastle United and Liverpool, we have noticed faults in this Villa side early on. With the defence at some points looking shaky and striker, Ollie Watkins, yet to get off the mark in the new season, the fans and Emery will be looking for a change in momentum after the international break.
Even with the quality on display throughout this Villa squad, Saturday’s opponents can not be underestimated. Palace sit seventh in the Premier League table, whilst Villa sit 10th. Roy Hodgson will be pleased with his sides start to the season after only picking up one loss out of a possible four, and that coming against last season’s runners up, Arsenal. Palace look to continue their strong start to the post-Zaha era, after the Ivorian winger sealed a summer move to Turkish giants, Galatasaray S.K. Since then, French attacking duo, Odsonne Edouard and Jean-Philippe Mateta, seem to have revived their Palace careers as the pair collectively have scored seven goals since the start of the 2023/2024 campaign. With the talent of Eberechi Eze also in attack, Villa’s defence will have to be switched on come 3pm on Saturday.
Villa remain without Emiliano Buendia and Tyrone Mings as they continue their recovery from long-term knee injuries. Diego Carlos’ availability is up in the air after the defender was forced off the pitch at Anfield due to a hamstring injury; the injury is not thought to be serious as there were no signs off crutches, however, it may be enough to rule him out for the Palace fixture.
Great news for Emery and the fans as Alex Moreno has returned to full team training, however, personally I can’t see him making the starting XI with the form that Lucas Digne has shown in the opening matches. Jacob Ramsey is closing in on his return to football and if all goes well, should be back in action withing the next week or two. Villa still remain without midfielder, Tim Iroegbunam.
Palace will most likely remain without attacking talent, Michael Olise, after he suffered a hamstring injury on international duty with France U21’s. Will Hughes will miss the trip to Villa Park as he suffered an injury in late July and is yet to make an appearance for Palace this season. Matheus Franca has undergone a scan on a stress injury and is rumoured to be having another one soon, therefore his date of return is still unknown.
Star defender, Marc Guehi, was substituted at half-time during England’s trip to Scotland on Wednesday as he was said to be ‘feeling something’; this could pave the way for Rob Holding to make his Palace debut. Nathan Ferguson will make his return soon, but the Villa game will come too soon for the English youngster.
Aston Villa (4-2-2-2)
Martinez; Cash, Torres, Konsa, Digne; Kamara, Douglas Luiz, McGinn; Diaby, Watkins, Bailey
Crystal Palace (4-3-3)
Johnstone; Ward, Holding, Andersen, Mitchell; Eze, Doucoure, Lerma; Ayew, Mateta, Edouard
This will be a close one, I think. Palace seem to be scoring a fair amount and look dangerous when going forward with the talent and options they have. The diversity in which they have, good combination of strength, creativity and pace will deny Villa’s chances of a clean sheet. I do think, however, that the quality that Villa display will be enough to walk away with the three points. It is time that Watkins gets his name back on a Premier League scoresheet. I think that Emery will revert back to a four-man defence due the absence of Diego Carlos, which will limit, to some degree, the attacking prowess of Cash and Digne, however, this will allow us to gain more control in the midfield; something that we have lacked against Newcastle and Liverpool.
Prediction: Aston Villa 2 Crystal Palace 1