Match Preview: Aston Villa host Brighton for Steven Gerrard’s debut

Aston Villa will host Brighton and Hove Albion at Villa Park in Steven Gerrard’s first match as manager on Saturday afternoon.

Villa have lost five Premier League games in a row and hope to end the skid in Gerrard’s debut. Brighton, winless in their last six matches but seventh in the table with 17 points, will be a tough challenge for a shaky Villa in 16th place with 10 points.

A 1-0 loss at Southampton on November 5 was Dean Smith’s final outing as Aston Villa head coach. Less than one week later, Gerrard arrived in Birmingham after spending three and a half years at Rangers in Scotland. In 2020-21 he guided the club to an undefeated Scottish Premier League title.

Villa are winless in their previous three matches against Brighton having last won on October 19, 2019, when Matt Targett scored in extra time to secure a 2-1 victory.

MOTHERWELL, SCOTLAND – OCTOBER 31: Steven Gerrard, Manager of Rangers FC is seen wearing a remembrance poppy badge as he arrives at the stadium prior to the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Motherwell FC and Rangers FC at Fir Park on October 31, 2021 in Motherwell, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Brighton are one of just three Premier League sides undefeated on the road this season having won twice and drawn three times.

Aston Villa vs. Brighton team news

Gerrard will be without midfielders Douglas Luiz and Morgan Sanson for his Villa debut. Luiz is still nursing a hamstring issue, and Sanson will miss due to “illness.”

Defender Ezri Konsa is available for selection after serving a one-match ban two weeks ago, but Trezeguet remains out.

Statuses of wingers Leon Bailey and Bertrand Traore are not currently known. Bailey picked up a knock late in Jamaica’s 1-1 draw with the USA earlier in the week, and Traore has struggled for fitness all season long.

Aaron Connolly could return for Brighton, but Graham Potter will be without Enock Mwepu (injury) and Robert Sanchez (suspension).

Aston Villa formation: Gerrard to use 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1?

At Rangers, Gerrard used 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formations with impeccable results. Given Villa’s struggles in a 4-2-3-1, a 4-3-3 makes more sense to employ, except injuries to Luiz and Sanson could force the former England international into a 4-2-3-1 setup.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 31: Emiliano Buendia of Aston Villa during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and West Ham United at Villa Park on October 31, 2021 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)

Given Marvelous Nakamba’s deficiencies on the ball, and Gerrard’s preference to play out from the back, the debutant manager could use a two-man pivot of John McGinn and Jacob Ramsey with Emi Buendia playing further upfield as a No. 10.

Gerrard likes his wide forwards to play more narrowly, so Ollie Watkins is likely to play on the left side of a three-man attack. Danny Ings will play centrally with Bailey or Anwar El Ghazi from the right side.

Key to Gerrard’s tactics are full backs Matty Cash and Targett, who will be leaned on going forward and in defense.

Aston Villa projected Starting XI: Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; McGinn, J. Ramsey; Bailey, Buendia, Watkins; Ings

Brighton projected Starting XI: Steele; Veltman, Dunk, Duffy, Cucurella; Bissouma, Lallana; Lamptey, Trossard, March; Maupay

Date/time: Saturday, November 19 at 3:00 PM BST/10:00 AM EST

Ground: Villa Park

Referee: Anthony Taylor

TV/Streaming UK: NA

TV/Streaming US: NBCSN