By James Murray

29th Aug, 2023 | 6:10pm

Youri Tielemans handed first start, Ollie Watkins benched in five changes - Aston Villa predicted XI v Hibernian

Youri Tielemans could be set to make his first start for Aston Villa when they host Hibernian in the second leg of their Europa Conference League qualifier on Thursday (31 August).

The Villans earned a comfortable 5-0 victory in the first leg at Easter Road to provide Unai Emery with the opportunity to rotate his starting lineup and hand out some much-needed minutes to some fringe players.

Ollie Watkins may be one of the first-team players to drop out of the lineup after he scored a hat-trick when the sides faced each other in Edinburgh last week.

Despite five changes being predicted from the side that beat Burnley 3-1 in the Premier League on Sunday (27 August), Robin Olsen will keep his place in goal after he replaced the injured Emiliano Martinez for the game at Turf Moor.

The Argentine keeper could be in with a chance of returning against Hibs, but there doesn’t seem much point in risking him when the Swedish backup is a capable deputy.

He will, however, be hoping to be more efficient after conceding from one of the two shots on target the hosts had against him at the weekend [WhoScored].

Emery will switch to a back-four for the second leg, with Matty Cash dropping back to right-back following his impressive performance against the Clarets, where he had a game-high six shots and recorded a 33 per cent conversion rate after scoring twice.

Ezri Konsa and Diego Carlos could both be handed a rest, with Calum Chambers drafted in to start at centre-back alongside Pau Torres.

Lucas Digne will be looking to build upon his superb display in the first leg after his pinpoint deliveries helped him register three assists as he will keep his place at left-back due to the lack of available competition.

After Douglas Luiz was subbed off during Sunday’s success, he will likely be fresher than Boubacar Kamara, so he will get the nod again in the middle of the park despite his pass success rate dropping to 79 per cent in the game from his season average of 88.6 per cent.

The Brazilian could be partnered in midfield by Tielemans, who is set to be handed his first start since making his move from Leicester City this summer.

The Belgian looked bright when he came on in the first leg against the Scottish side last week, so he will be hoping to prove why he should be pushing for a regular starting spot.

In an attacking three behind the forward, captain John McGinn is expected to continue in his advanced role on the left, while Leon Bailey and Bertrand Traore will be handed opportunities from the off after being benched at the weekend.

Watkins, who is yet to score in the Premier League this season despite averaging 2.7 shots per game, will perhaps be given a rest after carrying the heavy burden of being Villa’s only recognised senior forward, with Jhon Duran earning a start following his positive displays off the bench.

The 19-year-old Colombian has scored once in his 41 minutes as a substitute so far this season, so he will be hoping to add to that tally with some increased minutes against Hibs.

In other Aston Villa news, one player proved Unai Emery’s side are multi-dimensional in the victory over Burnley.