By Sam Stone

3rd Mar, 2023 | 6:42am

Aston Villa predicted XI v Crystal Palace: Leon Bailey axed, John McGinn to start

Aston Villa host Crystal Palace on Saturday as Unai Emery’s side look to make it back-to-back wins after a run of three straight Premier League defeats.

The Villans produced a fine away performance against Everton on 25 February to leave Goodison Park with a valuable three points – a result which plunged the Toffees back into the relegation zone.

There were a number of standout performances on Merseyside and we don’t anticipate Emery to make wholesale changes to his starting eleven. The main change could come towards the top end of the pitch, with Emi Buendia coming in to replace the disappointing Leon Bailey.

The Jamaican’s performance against the Toffees was concerning. As per Wyscout, he failed to have one shot, attempt one inaccurate cross and managed just one touch in the penalty area during his 63-minute cameo. It was an uninspiring display and the 25-year-old should justifiably be replaced by the Argentinian.

Despite only making a second-half appearance against Everton, Buendia got on the scoresheet and managed to trump all of Bailey’s attacking numbers – this is a switch the Villa boss will almost certainly look to make.

We anticipate Ollie Watkins to retain his starting berth. The former Brentford striker has been in excellent form of late and was yet again impressive at Goodison Park.

His goal, coupled with his four shots on target, displayed a forward who is bang in form and it would not be a surprise to see the 27-year-old continue this on Saturday. Jhon Duran has been involved in some lively substitute appearances, but it’s highly unlikely he will be given a start against the Eagles.

The midfield quartet will likely be unchanged. John McGinn has made the more advanced role his own and his performance against Everton was a testament to this. The Scot was a nightmare to play against Sean Dyche’s side. He completed six dribbles with 100 per cent accuracy, won 60 per cent of his duels, maintained an 83 per cent pass accuracy rate, and registered an assist.

The 28-year-old is embracing the role. His ability to hold the ball in tight spaces whilst also maintaining an attacking threat is proving to be an excellent tool for Emery’s team and it’s almost certain that he will start against the South Londoners.

Douglas Luiz and Boubacar Kamara have been an everpresent throughout Emery’s tenure at Villa Park and could both line up as the defensive midfield pairing. Continuity is absolutely vital and it appears the duo are now forming a good relationship. Jacob Ramsey should also keep his place after completing 90 minutes against Everton.

The 21-year-old coped well on his return to the side but was potentially outshone by McGinn at Goodison Park. However, we still anticipate the midfielder to start.

Defensively, we expect Emery to maintain the same personnel, with Emi Martinez in goal and a central defensive pairing of Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa in front of him. Mings won an astonishing 88 per cent of his aerial duels against the Toffees as well as four interceptions and clearances. The 29-year-old is clearly enjoying life under Emery and will be hoping to land another clean sheet on Saturday at Villa Park (4 March).

The Spaniard could look to move things around in the full-back department, however, Matty Cash probably did enough to keep his place ahead of Ashley Young. Cash was defensively sound (11/14 defensive duels completed) and kept hold of possession well for Aston Villa. It would be slightly unfair if he was axed from the line-up. We also anticipate Lucas Digne to start ahead of Alex Moreno.

It’s going to be a tough test against a Palace side who desperately need to pick up three points. The relegation dogfight has quietly snuck up on Patrick Viera’s side and a win at Villa Park would certainly ease some of their concerns.

In other Aston Villa news, this academy player could be the next star in waiting at Bodymoor Heath after back-to-back goals for the Under-23s.