Aston Villa seek to end a three-match losing streak on Sunday when they host in-form West Ham United at Villa Park.
Villa are fresh off an embarrassing 3-1 defeat at Arsenal that’s thrown the club into chaos. Some fans are questioning Dean Smith’s ability to lead a side with European ambition as internal strife reportedly boiled over in the wake of last week’s loss.
West Ham will prove to be a tough test for a Villa side struggling to find its footing. The Hammers are undefeated in their last four matches in all competitions and have won their last two Premier League contests.
Villa are winless in their last six meetings with West Ham and lost both Premier League fixtures last season. Jack Grealish scored in a 2-1 loss in London On November 30, and Ollie Watkins tallied Villa’s only goal in a 3-1 return-fixture defeat on February 3.
West Ham enter the week in fourth place with 17 points from the opening nine matches. Villa are 13th with 10 points and a -2 goal differential.
Aston Villa vs. West Ham team news
Keeper Emi Martinez is available for selection after a mid-week emergency return to his native Argentina. Martinez trained in South America earlier in the week and returned to Bodymoor Heath on Friday.
Leon Bailey could make his first Premier League start on Sunday after featuring for 45 minutes at Arsenal last week. Keinan Davis is back from injury and could make the bench.
Morgan Sanson and Jaden Philogene-Bidace are both ill and unavailable for selection.
Ryan Fredericks is out for a West Ham side that is otherwise healthy. Michail Antonio and Declan Rice were rested for the Hammers’ Carabao Cup tie with Manchester City at mid-week but will return to the lineup for Sunday’s match in Birmingham.
Shake up incoming: Aston Villa could revert to a 4-3-3 formation
Look for Villa to shake things up formation-wise and return to the 4-3-3 used in most matches last season. Smith moved away from a 3-5-2 to four in the back at halftime last week, and the change yielded better scoring chances for his side.
A 4-3-3 could jump-start a struggling attack that has failed to gel as planned. Smith’s gone with two center forwards since Watkins returned from injury, but the partnership has produced far too few quality chances.
Bailey’s inclusion in a front three could spark life into the struggling trio of Danny Ings, Emi Buendia, and Watkins, though one of the three would be dropped to the bench. Buendia is Villa’s record signing and should start from his natural right side. Smith is poised to make a tough choice on who should play up top: Ings or Watkins.
We’ve seen Villa bossed in midfield in the previous two league matches in which Jacob Ramsey was dropped. Look for the academy product to return to the XI alongside John McGinn and Douglas Luiz in midfield.
A back four would feature Matty Cash, Ezri Konsa, and Tyrone Mings, with either Matt Targett or Ashley Young slotting in on the left. Targett’s struggles this season are well-documented so Smith may turn to the experienced Young for an important match on Sunday.
Date/time: Sunday, October 31 at 4:30 PM BST/12:30 PM EST
Ground: Villa Park
TV/Streaming UK: Sky Sports
TV/Streaming US: NBCSN