Villa Park, Birmingham
20th October, 2013
Premier League football is back in action after the long international break and Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur resume their campaign at the Villa Park on Sunday.
Aston Villa are currently 10th in the league table and have recovered well from the poor run of results at the start of the season. The fixture list hasn’t been kind to them as they have already faced Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City in their opening seven matches. But their performances in these games have been impressive and results haven’t always reflected their efforts on the pitch so far. Aston Villa certainly look a stronger side than last season and the young players are finally close to realizing their potentials.
They are coming into this game on the back of a 0-0 draw with Hull City. Villa, who were without Benteke in that game, failed to apply the finishing touches despite dominating possession and creating a lot of openings. But that result did propel them up the table.
Tottenham Hotspur started the season brilliantly after a summer of upheaval at White Hart Lane. But they have dropped down the table in their last two games, following their draw against Chelsea and the shambolic defeat at the hands of West Ham at home. Spurs are currently 7th in the league and a win in this game will put them 5th in the table – three points behind the league leaders.
But Andre Villas-Boas needs to retrospect ahead of this match. Spurs stumbled to a 3-0 defeat against a side that had a poor record on the road. They will need to get back to winning ways soon as a lot of teams are looking strong at this point.
Team News And Tactical Brief
Paul Lambert does have a few injury concerns ahead of his fixture, but the big news for Birmingham based side is the possible return of Christian Benteke. The 22-year-old, who picked up an injury in the game against Norwich, has recovered sooner than expected and could possibly feature in this game. He trained with his national side last week and was an unused substitute in Belgium’s clash against Wales. Lambert is expected to take a late call on whether to start him in the game or use him in the second half. Charles N’Zogbia, Jores Okore and Gary Gardner are still out injured.
The return of the Benteke will provide a huge boost for Paul Lambert’s side and he is expected to make only one change to the side he fielded against Hull City. Libor Kozak will make way for the big Belgian. He will use a 4-3-3 formation in this match with Delph, Westwood and Ahmadi forming the midfield. Villa will sit back and allow Tottenham to have the possession of the ball. They will hope to draw Spurs out of their half and then hit them on the counter attack.
Interestingly Villa, used a 5-3-2 formation against Manchester City and Lambert also has the option to use that against Spurs, with Luna and Bacuna playing as full backs, while Clarke, Baker and Vlaar form the three-man defence. Lambert might change to this formation if they manage to grab the lead in this game.
Luna will need defensive help from Agbonlahor in his match as he comes up against an in-form Andros Townsend. The England international is very direct and will run at the defence. Ahmadi and Delph, will need to deny both Townsend and Sigurdsson any space in the middle as both of these wingers have the tendency of drifting in.
Expected Starting Line-Up (4-3-3): Guzan (GK); Bacuna, Vlaar, Baker, Clark; El Ahmadi, Luna, Delph; Weimann, Agbonlahor, Benteke
Andre Villas-Boas is still without Etienne Capoue and Younes Kaboul for this game, while Adebayor is unlikely to feature despite training with the first team. The good news for Spurs is the possible return of Aaron Lennon to the squad in this game after recovering from his injury. But Lennon is unlikely to start in this game as Townsend holds onto this place. Danny Rose is close to returning to first team action, but is unlikely to feature till next week.
The Tottenham manager is expected to make only one change to the side he fielded against West Ham at home. Jermaine Defoe will drop back to the bench as Roberto Soldado takes his place in the starting line-up. Villas Boas will use his usual 4-2-3-1 formation with Dembele and Paulinho sitting in front of the defence.
West Ham troubled Tottenham on the break in the last game and Andre Villas-Boas will need to rectify that. Aston Villa are one of the best counter-attacking sides in the Premier League and the likes of Weimann and Agbonlahor could hurt them if the defence provides too much space.
One of Tottenham’s biggest problems this season has been the lack of goals in the league. The London club have scored just six goals in seven matches – only Fulham, Crystal Palace, Sunderland and Stoke have done worse. Roberto Soldado was expected to solve Tottenham’s problem upfront, but the Spaniard is yet to score a goal from open play in the league, along with Defoe. Tottenham surely cannot rely on the likes of Sigurdsson to carry them over the line in every game with goals from midfield.
Expected Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1): Lloris (GK); Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Naughton; Dembélé, Paulinho; Townsend, Eriksen, Sigurdsson; Soldado
- Paul Lambert has won more away league games (7) as manager of Aston Villa than he has at Villa Park (6).
- Tottenham are unbeaten in their last nine league meetings with Aston Villa, winning six (Draw – 3).
- Townsend has attempted a league-high 26 shots without scoring a goal this season (including blocked shots).
- Aston Villa have not kept a clean sheet in any of their last 14 Premier League home games, losing nine in this run (W4, D1)
Players To Watch Out For
Fabian Delph (Aston Villa)
The 23-year-old has been in brilliant form for Aston Villa this season, and is perhaps one of the prime reasons as to why they look such a well-oiled side. For a midfielder, who plays in a counter-attacking side, his statistics are fantastic. He has attempted a total of 323 passes so far, with a success rate of 82.4%. But what is perhaps more impressive, is the defensive side of his game. He averages 4 tackles, 2.1 clearances and 2.6 interceptions per game. This could prove to be the breakthrough season for the Aston Villa midfielder as he looks to propel his side to the top half of the table.
Aston Villa 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham will dominate possession and Aston Villa will allow them to do so. But the home side will press once the ball reaches their half. With West Ham exposing Spurs’ weakness on the break, Villa could do the same. Expect this match to end in a draw with both sides scoring a goal each.