Aston Villa host Queens Park Rangers on New Year’s Day. Can the injury-riddled claret and blues kick-off 2019 with an important three points?
Following a recall on his season-long loan with Hull City, defender Tommy Elphick is a good bet to start for Aston Villa. The centre-back was enjoying a strong season with the Tigers before injuries necessitated a move back to his parent club.
We are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel in regard to injuries, but Tuesday’s clash with QPR will come too soon. Henri Lansbury and Neil Taylor could return for the FA Cup match with Swansea. Moreover, Axel Tuanzebe and Jack Grealish (hopefully) will be nearer to full fitness by the end of January.
But disaster struck during a recovery session on Sunday. Goalkeeper Ørjan Nyland reportedly ruptured his achilles tendon and will miss the rest of this season, and presumably a small chunk of the following season as well.
That is a massive, massive blow for Villa – not only on Tuesday, but the following months as well. Luckily, Croatia No. 1 Lovre Kalinic is coming in – presumably to start in the FA Cup and subsequent league matches. But Dean Smith and staff will need to settle on a depth chart relatively quickly.
Aston Villa Predicted XI (4-3-3): Bunn; Elmohamady, Elphick, Chester, Hutton; Hourihane, Bjarnason, McGinn; Adomah, Abraham, Kodjia.
Substitutes: Moreira, Bree, Whelan, Bolasie, El Ghazi, Hogan, Davis.
Enter, Mark Bunn.
The veteran has served as deputy in recent months and is presumably the one to receive the call if Jed Steer is not recalled. Elsewhere, Tommy Elphick is a guaranteed starter alongside James Chester. I think Ahmed Elmohamady gets the call at right-back again, but it wouldn’t shock me to see James Bree start instead.
It’s time for Birkir Bjarnason to re-enter the midfield with Grealish still out. The attack looks devoid of options outside of low-percentage crosses at the moment. He comes in for Glenn Whelan. This is the 4th game in ten days for Villa. Albert Adomah and Jonathan Kodjia can help liven up the attack with fresher legs.
WHEN: Tuesday,1 January, 2019
WHERE: Villa Park
PREDICTION: 2-2 draw (Abraham, McGinn)