It’s the seventh matchday of the Premier League this weekend and the league action is back after the midweek Carabao Cup fixtures. Aston Villa will host high-flying Brighton & Hove Albion in an interesting encounter between two in-form teams. Both teams were knocked out of the Carabao Cup after losing in their respective midweek fixtures. Aston Villa lost 2-1 against a resilient Everton side, while Brighton were shocked with a narrow 1-0 loss to Chelsea.
Unai Emery’s Villains would have been disappointed to not go through to the next round of the Carabao Cup as they created problems for themselves which cost them dearly in the game against Everton. A sloppy pass by Youri Tielemens gave away possession straight to Dominic Calvert Lewin who converted his chance for Everton. The focus will now will have to be back on the league where they currently sit 6th in the league table with 12 points from 6 games. A snatch-and-grab 1-0 win over Chelsea last weekend meant Emery’s men continued their impressive run of form wherein they have tasted defeat just twice which came against Liverpool and Newcastle United.
Brighton & Hove Albion are also enjoying life under De Zerbi in the league as they sit 3rd in the points table 3 points off league leaders Manchester City. A win at Villa Park could see them go joint top to the summit of the table and continue their dominance in the league. The Seagulls have scored the most goals in the league so far which is a real testament to the impact De Zerbi is having at the club since his arrival last summer.
The defeat against Chelsea would certainly be a disappointing result for the Seagulls, especially after their poor finishing in the first half with Joao Pedro and Ansu Fati having two clear-cut chances which they couldn’t convert. There was plenty of rotation midweek against the Blues to rest the key players ahead of the crucial fixture against Aston Villa.
When & Where?
Date: 30th September 2023.
Time: 11:30 AM GMT.
Venue: Villa Park.
Referee: Andy Madley.
Assistants: Ian Hussinm, Nick Hopton.
Fourth Official:- Tim Robinson.
VAR: Stuart Atwell.
Assistant VAR: Derek Eaton.
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The hosts will be without Emiliano Buendia and Tyrone Mings for the clash against Brighton as the duo are recovering from significant long-term injuries for which they underwent surgeries. Emery will look to reinstate Emiliano Martinez, Lucas Digne, Ollie Watkins, Boubacar Kamara, Diego Carlos and Nicolo Zaniolo back into the starting XI after benching them against Everton in the Carabao Cup. Bertrand Traore has recovered from a knock and could be available for the Villians.
Brighton will be without Julio Enciso and Jakub Moder who have been ruled out until the end of season due to knee injuries. Evan Ferguson missed the midweek game against Chelsea due to illness but is in contention to return to the starting XI at the weekend. De Zerbi hasn’t provided any clarity on the return of James Milner and Pascal Gross after the duo both are nursing knocks and missed the midweek game. Carlos Baleba limped off in the second half during the game against Chelsea with what looked like a hamstring injury and is a doubt for the weekend.
Unai Emery tried experimenting with the squad against Everton and didn’t get it right. John McGinn was deployed as a makeshift left-back while he opted to play a midfield trio of Douglas Luiz, Youri Tielemens and Leander Dendoncker who were outclassed by the Everton midfield which looked more physical and intense on the ball than the Villains’ midfield. The Spaniard will field his strongest XI at the weekend after resting his key players and will need his team to shrug off the defeat to go toe-to-toe with Brighton’s intense pressing gameplay.
The usual midfield of Luiz, Kamara and McGinn will be crucial to nullify the threat of the Brighton midfield pivot which is crucial for the Seagulls’ build-up play. Chelsea were successful in man-marking the pivot of Baleba and Dahoud with the help of Nicolas Jackson and Cole Palmer who were both instructed to sit tight on the two Brighton midfielders by Mauricio Pochettino to force the Brighton center backs to look for options elsewhere and force them to go wide when building up the play from the back.
John McGinn and Moussa Diaby will be crucial to replicate the same and win the ball in the final third for the Villains.
De Zerbi will be aware of this loophole which teams have been exploiting and will need a solution to this. The Italian faced the same dilemma last season wherein he tweaked the team structure everytime the opposition midfielders moved out to man mark his double pivot. He instructed the pivot of Caicedo and McAllister to stay close to each other and attract the opposition midfielders to step out of their position and press them. This opened up space in the midfield for the Brighton attacking players to drop in and occupy the space to provide a passing option and create a passing lane through the opposition midfield.
This tweak was highly effective last season and could be seen implemented at the weekend if Villa decide to press the Seagulls’ pivot.
It will be a grueling game for both sides as they are both in impressive form and 3 points could be anyone’s. Certainly, it will be a tactical spectacle for football enthusiasts to watch and it promises to be an end-to-end game for the fans to enjoy.
The Frenchman has been excellent so far this season for the Villains and has hit the ground running immediately for his new team. He has contributed 2 goals and 2 assists in the league so far and has shared the goal-scoring responsibilities with Ollie Watkins well this season. He is averaging 0.39 non penalty goals per 90, 0.29 assists per 90, 3.96 progressive carries per 90 and 2.95 shots per 90 for Villa so far this season highlighting his crucial involvement in the attack alongside Leon Bailey and Ollie Watkins. The Brighton defence will have to be on top of their game against Diaby who will be a player to watch out for the Seagulls’ defenders.
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The Japanese international has been electric for Brighton with 3 goals and 3 assists in the league. He came off the bench at the weekend to score a brace and complete his side’s comeback from 1-0 down to win 3-1. He is averaging 0.31 non-penalty xG per 90, 5.66 progressive carries per 90, and 7.16 touches per 90 in the opposition box in the league so far making him the X factor for the Seagulls. His intelligent runs in the final third, precise dribbling and clinical finishing have caused problems for every defence he has played against.
Lucas Digne will have the crucial responsibility of man-marking Mitoma and ensuring he has no real impact on the game for 90 minutes if the Villains are to have a chance of keeping a clean sheet against the league’s most clinical finishers.
Aston Villa predicted lineup vs Brighton: Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Torres, Digne, Luiz, Kamara, Bailey, McGinn, Diaby, Watkins.
Brighton predicted lineup vs Aston Villa: Verbruggen, Estupinan, Dunk, Webster, Veltman, Gilmour, Dahoud, Mitoma, Ferguson, Adingra, Welbeck.