Clement Lenglet axed in four changes - Aston Villa predicted XI v Wolves
Aston Villa manager Unai Emery could make four changes to his starting lineup to face Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League on Sunday (8 October).
The Villans left it late against Zrinjski in their Europa Conference League clash, relying on a 94th-minute John McGinn goal to secure all three points at Villa Park for the 1-0 win. Emery put out a strong side against Zrinjski, but perhaps not as strong as intended after Moussa Diaby and Boubacar Kamara were left out late due to injuries.
However, with Villa taking the trip to Molineux, the Spaniard will be eager to stretch his side’s winning streak for four games in the Premier League against Gary O’Neil’s Wolves. But off the back of a 2-1 win against Manchester City, Wolves could fancy themselves for back-to-back upsets.
Before the Zrinjski clash, Emery failed to give a timeline on the returns of Diaby and Kamara. As quoted by Birmingham Live (5 October), Emery said: “After our match on Saturday, they didn’t train, Boubacar and Diaby. I don’t know for the weekend.”
Emery will want these key players on the pitch if possible, but he won’t want to risk further injury so may opt to rest the pair again.
Emi Martinez, of course, keeps his spot in goal. Clean sheets have been few and far between for the Argentine this season, but he earned one in Europe despite having very little to do. This Wolves side does not get many shots away with just 79 this season (16th-place), so the World Cup winner may have another quiet day if his defence remains strong [Premier League].
Speaking of the defence, Clement Lenglet could lose his space in the starting lineup. Against Zrinjski, the Barcelona loanee performed very well, probably his best in a Villa shirt. After 96 per cent pass accuracy and 10 successful long balls, he may be frustrated to make way for Pau Torres. However, the Frenchman is unlikely to displace Torres who is set to become a Villa mainstay for seasons to come [SofaScore].
Ezri Konsa could keep his place but would revert back to his preferred centre-back position, with Matty Cash coming back in at right-back to add the attacking dimension to the defence. Emery will be keen to develop the Konsa-Torres partnership and will likely start them in each league fixture.
Lucas Digne could keep his spot. Having featured in all but one game for Villa in all competitions, his performances have changed the opinion of much of the fanbase. With five assists too this season, the Frenchman is proving his worth at both ends of the pitch.
Emery may opt to partner Douglas Luiz with Youri Tielemans. Luiz and Kamara are the go-to midfielders this season but with doubts over the Frenchman, Tielemans could get the nod. Per SofaScore, the Belgian managed four shots, 84 per cent pass accuracy and two successful aerial duels against Zrinjski.
While he did fail to win four of six ground duels (33%) and lost possession 25 times, he looked much more assured than in previous outings and Kamara’s absence could offer him an opportunity to shine.
The match-winning captain McGinn will most likely keep his space in the starting XI. As with Aston Villa themselves, his form has been slightly wobbly, but his quality and leadership always come through. To his left and right may be Leon Bailey and Nicolo Zaniolo.
The Italian made himself known in Europe on Thursday and is slowly growing in confidence in the Premier League. Per FBRef, Zaniolo gets off 2.74 shots per 90 in the league, but with six shots against Zrinjski, he may be yet to show his best domestically. Bailey would most likely start in the absence of Diaby. With two goals from just two shots on target, Bailey has staked a claim in the Aston Villa squad and has not struggled to keep up, unlike Bertrand Traore.
Leading the line will most probably be Ollie Watkins. With the confidence of a man who just got an England call-up, Watkins will be eager to add to his hattrick against Brighton and build momentum ahead of the international break, especially with BBC Sport reporting (27 September) that he and Villa were in talks over a new contract.
For Villa to establish themselves as a regular European side, they have to be winning games like this. While Wolves are no pushovers, Emery will demand no less than a win.
In other Aston Villa news, a star is already living up to a “top-class” future verdict after his 100% cameo against Brighton.