Steven Gerrard will pit his wits against Patrick Vieira as a progressive Crystal Palace team take on a revitalised Aston Villa side with both teams looking for a win.

Crystal Palace saw their momentum halted after an entertaining draw to Burnley in the previous weekend. Patrick Vieira’s side were made to work hard to earn a point against Sean Dyche’s men, as both teams led at some point during the match.

After successive victories over Manchester City and Wolves, Palace had found some rhythm in the Premier League. The London side sit in the 10th spot, four points behind Arsenal in fifth. While Vieira might have fine-tuned them, the next few results will be vital to maintaining momentum. After the Villa clash, Palace have away games to Leeds United and Manchester United, both of which will be a big test of character.

Meanwhile, visitors Aston Villa finally ended a dreadful run of games to hand new manager Steven Gerrard a victory in his first game at the helm. The former Rangers’ boss has revitalised the group after a decent win over Brighton, and he will aim to carry on the momentum into this tough encounter with Palace.

In hindsight, Gerrard set up his team to keep things tight rather than play a fluid, attacking game. It’s still early days to project Gerrard’s abilities despite his successful spell in Scotland. The Palace game will act as a test of character for the former Liverpool midfielder, one he would be hoping to pass with flying colours.

Team News & Tactics

Crystal Palace

Despite conceding three goals last weekend, Vieira is not expected to change his side’s defensive shape, with the usual 4-3-3 the desired formation against Villa. James McArthur and Nathan Ferguson are the only injury-enforced absentees in an otherwise fully-fit squad.

Vieira could make just a single change to the team that played Burnley. Jordan Ayew could be the only casualty, with Odsonne Edouard likely to take his place on the right side of the attack.

Palace will continue to rely on the defensive abilities of Joel Ward and Tyrick Mitchell as full-backs, with Joachim Andersen and Marc Guehi keeping their places in central defence.

Luka Milivojevic will continue to play at the base of midfield in the absence of McArthur, with Chiekhou Kouyate and Conor Gallagher playing either side of him. Wilfried Zaha is the defacto leader in the attack, with Christian Benteke leading the line after his two-goal display against Burnley.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Guaita; Ward, Andersen, Guehi, Mitchell; Gallagher, Milivojevic, Kouyate; Edouard, Benteke, Zaha

Aston Villa

Gerrard will have to make some hard decisions on setting up his team against Palace. In the previous match, he played a 4-3-3, which looked more due to the absence of midfielder Douglas Luiz. With the Brazilian back in action, the manager will certainly look to bring him into the lineup.

If Luiz comes back, Gerrard could ditch the 4-3-3 in favour of a double midfield pivot. The Brazilian will be partnered by John McGinn, leaving Jacob Ramsey and Marvelous Nakamba on the bench.

The new formation could allow Gerrard to play an extra man in attack. After the previous game, he might have been impressed by Emiliano Buendia’s performance, while he would want Leon Bailey to enter the frame as well. The attacker might finally find a place on the right side of the attack, with the Argentine playing a no.10 role.

Ollie Watkins is predicted to keep his place, albeit from the left side, while Danny Ings will lead the line once more, hoping to link up better those playing on either side of him.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; McGinn, Luiz; Bailey, Buendia, Watkins; Ings

Key Stats

  • Crystal Palace have won their last three home games against Aston Villa in all competitions.
  • Crystal Palace are unbeaten in their last seven Premier League games.
  • Crystal Palace have scored at least two goals in five of their last six Premier League games.
  • Aston Villa have been losing at both half and full time in five of their last six away matches.
  • Aston Villa have scored at least two goals in their last three games against Crystal Palace in all competitions.

Player to Watch

Wilfried Zaha

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While Vieira keeps fine-tuning his defensive players, the manager has also done some good work in the attacking third, with Benteke, Edouard and Zaha all firing on all cylinders. The Ivorian, in particular, has to take on more responsibilities to become a proper leader in the final third.

Zaha has contributed enough so far, although there’s plenty of room for improvement. Palace are a team in transition, who, under Roy Hogdson, were understandably a more defensive unit than with Vieira. Changing that style into a more attacking variant should suit Zaha, who should adapt and start scoring plenty of goals.

Prediction

Crystal Palace 2-1 Aston Villa

The outcome of these games is a very hard thing to predict. Both have the quality and ability to beat one another, although Palace carry a certain momentum and advantage over Villa. Having been unbeaten in seven games, Vieira certainly has the continuity, which Gerrard, only one game into his tenure, does not.

We expect the teams to play out an entertaining encounter. Palace may have a slight edge over their visitors, which could be instrumental in handing them the three points and a small climb up the Premier League table.

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