The Steven Gerrard era is set to dawn at Aston Villa as they welcome Brighton and Hove Albion in a key Premier League game at Villa Park.

A new dawn could be about to rise at Villa Park as Steven Gerrard prepares to stamp his name on the Premier League, this time as a manager. The English legend is a Premier League Hall of Famer and one of the finest players to appear in the top-flight.

He has built up a solid reputation for himself from his spell at Rangers. He guided the Scottish giants to their first league title in 10 years and has once again established themselves as a bastion of invincibility in the Scottish Premier League.

A different task awaits him at Aston Villa, with the side sitting precariously in the 16th spot. The Midland giants have several promising players on their books but have failed to see out games this season. Putting some distance between them and the relegation zone will be Gerrard’s priority, and he will face his baptism of fire against Graham Potter’s well grilled Brighton and Hove Albion.

The Seagulls have started the season well and find themselves in the seventh spot after 12 games played. Potter’s side has been astute and often show plenty of tactical flexibility to adjust to different oppositions. In foresight, this could prove to be an excellent test for Gerrard’s abilities

Just two of Villa’s last 12 managers have won their first top-flight game in charge. The Villans have lost their last five Premier League games and are experiencing their worst run of results in the Premier League since 2015/16. Villa will hope that the new manager bounce will inspire them to turn the tide around.

Brighton, meanwhile, are also winless in their last six Premier League games. While the game is still early in the season, coming out strong after the international break holds great importance to both sides. With the festive run of games coming up, they must begin afresh with a win. Something has got to give, and it remains to be seen how the cookie crumbles.

The Hard Tackle now looks at how both sides could line up on the night and what tactical setups they might consider.

Team News & Tactics

Aston Villa

Steven Gerrard will be without Trezeguet, Morgan Sanson and Douglas Luiz, who are all out injured. Marvelous Nakamba and Bertrand Traore are recovering from injuries of their own and remain a doubt for the game. The former has a better chance of featuring on Saturday and could be rushed back into the first XI.

It is not all bad news as both Ezri Konsa and Leon Bailey return to contention for the weekend clash. After missing Aston Villa’s last two games, summer signing Danny Ings is also expected to return after recovering from the coronavirus.

Gerrard usually employed a 4-3-3 system at the Ibrox and might choose to do the same at Aston Villa. It does offer him the flexibility to restructure the team to a 4-5-1 while defending and negating Brighton’s hold on the midfield.

Emiliano Martinez is sure to start in goal and presents Gerrard with a dependable option between the sticks. Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa will form the centre-back pairing and will likely be flanked by Matt Targett and Matty Cash in the back four.

Villa’s midfield could consist of Jason Ramsey, Nakamba and the impressive John McGinn. They will start behind the attacking trio of Ollie Watkins, Danny Ings and Emiliano Buendia. Watkins will be shifted out wide for Gerrard to accommodate arguably his three best attackers on the pitch.

The Aston Villa boss was able to get the best out of his frontmen at Rangers and will hope to do the same at Villa Park. He certainly has a better cadre of players at his disposal, and it remains to be seen if he can channel into their immense abilities.

This season, Brighton have shown excellent fight in midfield and will hope to win the battle in the middle of the park early on. This will demand a lot from Watkins and Buendia, who will have to track back and help out while defending.

With Bailey also available, Gerrard can change things up if needed. It promises to be an intriguing game of the minds between two very promising managers.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; McGinn, Nakamba, Ramsey; Buendia, Ings, Watkins

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Brighton and Hove Albion

Graham Potter’s side enjoyed an excellent start to the season, finding themselves in contention for the top four at one point. A winless run of six games has, however, seen them drop off since.

However, the Seagulls have shown a good understanding of tactics and have largely held their shape despite recent reversals. The international break has given them a breather, and they will be keen to get back to winning ways again. Potter will, however, have to do without Steven Alzate, Danny Welbeck and Enock Mwepu. 29-year-old Dan Burn is also a doubt for the game.

Brighton look set to continue with a 4-2-3-1 system that has brought them enough success so far. Regular goalkeeper Robert Sanchez misses out after getting himself sent off against Newcastle United. His position looks set to be filled by Jason Steele on the night.

Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy will form the centre-back pairing alongside Marc Cucurellka and Joel Veltman on the flanks. The duo of Yves Bissouma and Adam Lallana look set to form a double pivot in midfield. Gerrard played along with the latter while at Liverpool and will be well aware of the Englishman’s traits.

Solly March, Leandro Trossard and Tariq Lamptey can be difficult to mark on their day and could prove to be a thorn in Villa’s side. Neal Maupay is likely to start up front, providing another cause of concern for the Aston Villa defence.

Unlike Villa, Brighton have a fixed formation where players have well-defined roles. They function well as a unit and go into the game as slight favourites. Villa have the third-worst defence in the league and it will be something that the visitors will look to exploit.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Steele; Veltman, Dunk, Duffy, Cucurella; Lallana, Bissouma; Lamprey, Trossard, March; Maupay

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Key Stats

  • Both sides have met each other in the Premier League four times. Villa won their first meeting back in 2019 but have since drawn twice and lost once.
  • Brighton won the corresponding fixture 2-1 last season. It was their first win at Villa Park and the only triumph in 12 clashes against the Midlands side.
  • The four matches between these sides in the Premier League has yielded eight goals. Of the eight just one has been scored by a player who isn’t English- Leandro Trossard.
  • This is the sixth time in Premier League history that Aston Villa are enduring a five-match losing run. Only Southampton, Crustal Palace, Bolton Wanderers and  Fulham have outdone it (7).
  • Brighton are one of the three Premier League sides who are still unbeaten in away games.
  • Aston Villa have the third-worst defence in the league and have conceded 20 goals so far. Only Norwich City (26) and Newcastle United (24) have been worse.

Player to Watch

John McGinn

McGinn was Villa's best midfielder on the night. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

McGinn can be a gamechanger for Aston Villa. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

The Scottish international has been a dependable player for Aston Villa and will need to step up against Brighton. Steven Gerrard got the best out of several Scottish stars with Rangers and will hope to elevate McGinn to a higher level at Villa Park.

A midfielder himself in his playing days, the new Aston Villa boss could be the right man to do just that. The departure of Jack Grealish has left a void in the Villa midfield when it comes to pushing forward. McGinn can fill that demand and emerge as a key player for the Midlands outfit.

The 27-year-old has been one of the shining lights in an Aston Villa side that has at times failed to pull through this season. Facing off against Yves Bissouma and Adam Lallana, McGinn’s tactical reading of the game and intelligence could prove pivotal on the night.

Prediction

Aston Villa 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion

Brighton have drawn five of their last six games and are somewhat of a specialist in earning a point. However, Villa Park will be bouncing following Gerrard’s appointment and could see their side step up their game.

The Midlands outfit will be keen to end their rot of five straight losses and get their season back on track. With a punishing set of games to look forward to in the festive season, the onus will be on them to take as many points as possible at home and put some distance from the relegation zone. Steven Gerrard could very well be the man to hand Brighton their first away loss of the season.

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