Sunday, 4 October 2009

Villa preview

Possibly the biggest test we have endured this season. Not our hardest game - we went to Old Trafford last month, as you may remember - but the hardest one where the result matters, the hardest test. Even Arsenal at home is a game we won last season. If we win at Villa Park there will be a sense of conquest we haven't tasted since the February 2008 derby, and even then the edge was rather taken off by other events.

So it's big: don't forget that Villa finished twelve points and four places ahead of us last season, and that this year they have already won at Anfield. And while we may have slightly more quality than Villa (although they do have some excellent players), they are a good unit who stick well to O'Neill's gameplan.

And it will be fascinating to see the system and the team Hughes selects. It will be his hardest decisions yet. My sense is that we will revert to the 4-3-3 used against Arsenal and Manchester United - with Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry anchoring the returning Stephen Ireland. Up front the only guaranteed starter is Craig Bellamy on the left. Then it's two from Carlos Tévez, Emmanuel Adebayor, Shaun Wright-Phillips plus Roque Santa Cruz and Martin Petrov. I think Adebayor will start with Tévez in the right wing role, but there are plausible alternatives: Tévez leading the line with SWP on the right, Adebayor up front with SWP on the right, and so forth. He could even rest Ireland, drop SWP back into attacking midfield and go with Bellamy, Adebayor and Tévez up front.

Whichever team we play, we'll have to play very well to win. I'd probably take a point. In terms of prediction, I'm going to go for a dramatic 2-2.

1 comment:

N Rowland said...

My prediction (or what I'd like to see) is:

Adebayor up front, with Petrov on the left, and Belamy on the right. Teves slots in behind Ade.

Barry and DeJong back them up in midfield, with Bridge, Lescott, Toure and Zabaleta. (and Given of course).

Ireland and SWP can come off the bench and take advantage of a very tired Villa defence.

Score: 2 - 3 for the good guys.