Incoming sinister Aston Villa fixtures
Aston Villa’s excellent start will prove to be even more important when looking to six out of their next seven games in the Premier League. It is frustrating to think a 3rd place position could be wiped out as Lambert prepares his men to line up last year’s top six placed teams.
September brings Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea. October brings Man City and Everton and on November 2nd the ‘sinister six’ finishes off with Tottenham at home.
It’s hard to say what Villa fans would realistically take from the next seven weeks. Ignoring the QPR game on 27th October is four points enough from the games against the ‘top six’ or should there be higher expectations from what seems a rejuvenated Villa side so far?
The return of big players
It was this time last year that Jores Okore ruptured his cruciate against Newcastle and the promising 22-year-old spent the rest of the season on the sidelines. Assurances were made that he was fully over his injury and the fact he hasn’t featured so far have been down to a knock on his knee.
This weekend he saw a return to competitive action with Denmark, playing 90 minutes for Denmark U21’s last Wednesday and just over half an hour for the senior side.
There have been high hopes for Okore ever since he signed and with Ron Vlaar a potential doubt after the knock he picked up against Hull, Liverpool away could be a chance for Okore to stamp his mark on what has so far been a rock solid defence.
November was originally the planned return date for Christian Benteke, but reports last month suggested that he could be due for a late September return. 11 of his 29 league goals for Aston Villa have come against last season’s top six and he is the kind of threat the club need in these big games.
Benteke’s physical presence and pace gives Lambert the outlet he currently lacks going into matches where the team is likely to be ‘under the cosh’ for large amounts of the game.
The Belgian’s pace is a threat on the break, whilst his size is crucial in making the ball stick up front and getting Villa up the pitch. He could be the difference in these next few games by proving to be the match winner, even if he is coming off the bench.
Libor Kozak could also return from his broken leg as soon as early as the middle of October and despite only managing 14 league games for the club, he has proved that he can be a threat going forward and will add to Lambert’s options in the last couple of these games.
Previous record against ‘sinister six’ under Lambert
Villa’s record in corresponding fixtures over the last two seasons has been a mixed bag.
In 2012/13 Paul Lambert’s men picked up one win, two draws and three defeats registering five points whilst in 2013/14 they picked up a draw and a victory to total four points.
Two wins in 12 against these sides (Arsenal, City and Spurs at home with Liverpool, Chelsea and Everton away) may not make good reading but it is worth remembering that including the reverse fixtures last season, Villa boasted one of best records against the ‘top four’ teams, when you factor in their wins at Arsenal and at home to Chelsea.
Five points from these six games will show improvement on last year and will keep us in the top half. Then again even three points during this spell could be optimistic considering it is six games in which Villa’s opposition will certainly be the bookies’ favourite in every tie.
On a positive note, the Spurs fixture is the only one Villa haven’t at least picked up something in the last two years. But surely it’s time for a bit of payback there?
New look defence to be properly tested
With summer beginning, no one could have predicted Aston Villa’s starting back four for the opening three games of the Premier League but Hutton, Vlaar, Senderos and Cissokho have been excellent, shipping only one goal in that period.
However an injury to Vlaar (he faces a late fitness test) and a potential change of system/player will be a good test to see if they can compete over the entirety of the league campaign.
Expect Lambert and Keane to switch to three centre-backs at times, particularly when Okore returns. His style of play suits the right side of that three with his pace and composure on the ball.
Baker and Clark would give balance on the left hand side with Vlaar or Senderos organising in the middle.
However should Vlaar be fit to start again this weekend, expect Villa to start this tricky run of fixtures with the back four that has served them so well in the opening few games.
Elliot’s Predicted Results
Liverpool 2-0 Aston Villa
Villa 1-1 Arsenal
Chelsea 3-1 Villa
Villa 0-2 Manchester City
Everton 2-2 Villa
Villa 2-1 Spurs
Total points haul: 5
What do you think? Please add your predictions in the comments below. UTV
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