In the midst of the Premier League’s coronavirus crisis, Aston Villa welcome Burnley at Villa Park on Saturday, with the match set to go ahead as scheduled.

Aston Villa became the latest Premier League club impacted by the rapidly spreading coronavirus after being forced to close their training facility on Sunday owing to a coronavirus outbreak in their squad. But that did not stop Steven Gerrard’s side from registering an impressive 2-0 victory over Norwich City at Carrow Road on Tuesday night, courtesy to goals from Jacob Ramsey and Ollie Watkins.

The result meant that Aston Villa continued their strong start to life under Gerrard, with the former Liverpool captain guiding his side to four victories and two defeats in six Premier League matches. As a result, they have risen to tenth place in the table with a total of 22 points from 17 games – level on points with Leicester City.

Meanwhile, Burnley failed to climb out of the relegation zone last time out, drawing 0-0 with West Ham United. The Clarets currently have one coronavirus case on their roster. However, their midweek game against Watford was postponed hours before kickoff owing to positive cases in the Hornets’ squad. Sean Dyche’s side have evolved into a draw specialist and have shared the spoils in four of their last five league fixtures, winning none.

Aston Villa only picked up one point from their two league games against Burnley last season, with the two sides playing out a goalless draw at Villa Park before the Clarets won 3-2 at Turf Moor. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Aston Villa

Aston Villa had a Covid outbreak last week, having lost Anwar El Ghazi and second-choice goalkeeper Jed Steer to positive tests, as well as two members of the staff. Morgan Sanson was absent from the midweek victory over Norwich City due to an unknown illness.

Wingers Bertrand Traore and Leon Bailey are both out due to muscle issues, while Marvelous Nakamba’s spell in the playing XI was cut short due to a knee injury that requires surgery. In a piece of positive news, Matty Cash, Emiliano Buendia, Ezri Konsa, and Ashley Young should all be available despite minor knocks against Norwich.

Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard could opt for a narrow 4-3-3 formation with slight alterations to the side that took to field against Norwich. Youngster Carney Chukwuemeka could come in for his second Premier League start of the campaign while Danny Ings will also be in contention for a start in the frontline.

Emiliano Martinez is a certain starter in between the sticks for the Villans, fresh from preserving a clean sheet against the Canaries. Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings seem to have rediscovered their form at the heart of the defence as they look to contain the physical threat posed by Burnley’s forwards.

Matty Cash will operate at right-back, whereas Matt Targett could start as the left-back. Both full-backs will be encouraged to get forward as much as possible to create overlaps and provide added width.

Villa could field for a midfield three of John McGinn, Douglas Luiz and Jacob Ramsey. Luiz will sit at the base of the midfield three, acting as the deep playmaker who can control and dictate the tempo, while academy product Ramsey will link the midfield and attack with his quick feet and work rate.

Finally, in attack, Emiliano Buendia could keep his place down the right flank after an impressive display against his former club last time out. Similarly, young forward Chukwuemeka will be given a chance to impress the left side. Ollie Watkins will lead the line for the West Midlands outfit, with Ings on the bench.

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

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Burnley

The late cancellation of Burnley’s midweek game should have given Maxwel Cornet enough time to recuperate from a thigh injury. Burnley have struggled to create chances in recent games, having missed the creative spark of their summer signing, and his return would be a big boost for Sean Dyche’s men.

Dale Stephens is back to the contention after passing the COVID-19 protocols, and Connor Roberts has recovered from an infection. However, like Ashley Barnes (thigh), the Welsh international will not make the trip to the south.

Burnley boss Sean Dyche will again set up his side in his resilient 4-4-2 low-block with compactness and effective long-ball style of play at the heart of the system’s philosophy. Nick Pope has been a commanding presence in goal for the Clarets all season and would like to continue his good form.

Guarding the English keeper would be the reliable centre-back pairing of Ben Mee and James Tarkowski, whereas Matthew Lowton and Charlie Taylor should feature in the full-back spots. The backline will need to be on guard and match the pace of the Villa’s forwards to keep things tight at the back.

Dyche could opt for a midfield quartet of Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Josh Brownhill, Ashley Westwood and Dwight McNeil. The duo of Westwood and Brownhill will slot in the engine room while Gudmundsson will almost operate as the third central midfield considering his lack of involvement in the final third. McNeil remains one of the side’s top attacking threats with his precise crosses into the box.

At the front of the attack, Chris Wood is a certainty providing his physicality and aerial prowess. The New Zealand attacker would be disappointed with his tally of just three league goals so far this campaign, and he will be hoping to break his three-game run without a goal. Cornet will join the double act up top after returning from injury and offer pace and panache in the final third.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Pope; Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor; Gudmundsson, Westwood, Brownhill, McNeil; Wood, Cornet

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Key Stats

  • Aston Villa have won four and drawn one of their eight home games this season (L3), scoring 14 goals while conceding 11.
  • Burnley have the division’s second-worst record away from home, registering 4 draws and 5 losses; their last away win came against Fulham in May this year.
  • Burnley are winless in their last five league games and have failed to find the back of the net in their last three league outings.
  • In the eight Premier League meetings between the two sides, Aston Villa and Burnley have won two games apiece, with the remaining four ending in draws.
  • Burnley have lost only once on their last seven away trips to Villa Park.

Player to Watch

Ollie Watkins

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Ollie Watkins netted again at Carrow Road to make it four goals from his last eight games. He has been on a fine run of form this campaign, notching up 5 goals and an assist from 15 appearances. The 25-year-old is a solid, all-round striker, good at holding onto the ball, pacy and intelligent to beat his marker, while his work rate and front-foot pressing set the tone for the rest of the side.

He has been producing consistent numbers all across the board, averaging 2.2 shots, 1.2 key passes and 1.2 dribbles per game. The former Brentford striker will hope for a fruitful evening this weekend against a Burnley defence that struggles to contain speedy forwards.

Prediction

Aston Villa 2-0 Burnley

Historically, Villa have not beaten Burnley at home since late 2010. Still, the hosts will be confident coming on the back of an excellent run of form under Steven Gerrard, winning four of the last six while only suffering defeats at the hands of Manchester City and Liverpool. The former Rangers boss has made the Villans defence more solid and tough to break down while the team is producing goods on the other end to earn vital results.

Burnley have only lost two of their previous ten league games, but they have drawn seven of them. Converting one point into three has been a big issue for the Clarets this season. They have not scored a single goal in their last three matches, while Aston Villa have failed to score only once in their last 14 outings at Villa Park.

The scale appears to be tilting in favour of the hosts. The Hard Tackle predicts another 2-0 win for Aston Villa to extend their honeymoon period under the new manager.

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