Villa. Blues. Sunday. Villa Park.
Aston Villa Football Club re-enter league play after another end to an international break. The club returns far less healthy than when they first entered after a myriad of injuries befell several key players. What awaits them as a first test back?
None other than a showdown with arch-rivals Birmingham City in the ‘Second City Derby.’
Dean Smith’s team may or may not be without the services of Neil Taylor, Birkir Bjarnason, James Chester, and John McGinn after a series of injuries over the break, with some flare-ups pre-dating the FIFA window.
Chester, dealing with a sore knee for much of the season, was a 50th-minute substitute for Wales last week. His recovery seems to be trending in the right direction, but a potential absence of Villa’s nominal captain would be a massive loss. The likely fill-in at centre-back would be Mile Jedinak or James Bree.
Taylor was forced off at halftime vs. Derby County. His groin problem forced him to withdraw from Ryan Giggs’ Wales team as well. It’s a tricky injury to play with, but two weeks and a day between matches might just be enough time to heal.
Meanwhile, Villa midfielders Birkir Bjarnason and John McGinn’s immediate futures seem murkier after withdrawing from Iceland and Scotland, respectively.
Aston Villa Predicted XI (4-3-3): Nyland, Hutton, Chester, Tuanzebe, Taylor; Whelan, Hourihane, Grealish; Adomah, Abraham, Kodjia.
Substitutes: Bunn, Bree, Jedinak, Elmohamady, Lansbury, Bolasie, Hogan.
An incredible testament to Aston Villa’s depth that despite potentially missing four players, the bench can be filled with so many decent options. Henri Lansbury will make the eighteen if both Bjarnason and McGinn miss out. So too could Callum O’Hare, potentially.
Do we see Yannick Bolaise from the start? Sooner or later we will, but maybe not right off the break with a testy matchup.
WHEN: Sunday, 25 November, 2018 @ 12:00 Noon GMT / 7:00 a.m. EST
WHERE: Villa Park
PREDICTION: 2-1 Aston Villa victory (Abraham, Grealish).