A matchup of Championship heavyweights takes place on Saturday as the claret and blues travel to Pride Park. Can Aston Villa pull-off the upset against Frank Lampard’s Derby County?
In a relaxed, relatively straightforward month of November for Aston Villa Football Club, Saturday’s trip to Derby County represents the most difficult encounter. Frank Lampard’s Rams are undoubtedly one of the league’s strongest sides, filled with talent in all areas of the pitch.
Led by a quartet of 24-and-under goalscorers in Jack Marriott, Tom Lawrence, Harry Wilson, and Mason Mount, Derby will be an incredible test. On paper, this is one of Aston Villa’s five or so toughest league matches of the season (if not the toughest).
This game should be a good measuring stick for Dean Smith’s revamped Villa. A result, any result culminating in points – pretty or ugly – would be a job well done, in my opinion.
Both teams go into Saturday’s affair pretty healthy. Birkir Bjarnason is Villa’s only real question mark after missing out on last Friday’s victory over Bolton Wanderers. His groin strain may yet force him to miss another week. Derby have zero notable injuries or suspensions.
Aston Villa Predicted XI (4-3-3): Nyland; Hutton, Chester, Tuanzebe, Taylor; Hourihane; McGinn, Grealish; Adomah, Abraham, Kodjia.
Substitutes: Bunn, Jedinak, Elmohamady, Whelan, El Ghazi, Bolasie, Hogan.
This lineup is a bit tougher to predict with an 8-day layoff between matches. Moreover, Bolton at home and Derby away represent two different games in terms of strategy. Still, the back five looks settled at this point under Dean Smith.
Neil Taylor’s resurgence has been good to see. Since his return as the starting left-back, he’s put down two great home performances and two away duds. Is he up for the challenge at Pride Park?
In midfield, Conor Hourihane retains his place as deep-lying playmaker ahead of John McGinn and Jack Grealish. This is assuming Birkir Bjarnason is again unavailable, which he very well might be. Even if he is available, it might not be wise to re-enter the Iceland international into a difficult situation, not 100% fit and healthy. Anwar El Ghazi or Glenn Whelan would be the logical players to drop from the bench.
Yannick Bolasie is the X-Factor here for Aston Villa. Will he finally get a start after 9 substitute appearances? If Smith thinks he can defend his flank for a full 90 minutes, he will get the call.
WHEN: Saturday, November 10th, 2018 @ 10:00 a.m. EST / 3:00 p.m. GMT
WHERE: Pride Park
PREDICTION: 2-1 Derby County victory (Abraham)
Home advantage will play a role. Hopefully Villa can eke out a result, though.