Premier League: Man City v Aston Villa

The last time any English side took points from City, it was Slaven Bilic’s West Brom outfit back in December, a result that saw him sacked 14 hours later. Since then, City have been perfect, and will go top of the league for the first time this season if they see off the Villans.

After a period of fixture instability thanks to a COVID outbreak at their training base, Villa haven’t played a league game since New Year’s Day, when they were beaten 2-1 at Old Trafford. Since then, their first-team has been out of action, with only what was essentially Villa’s under-18’s losing 4-1 in the FA Cup to a full strength Liverpool.

As a result of the extended break, Dean Smith has few injury concerns ahead of the trip to Manchester, with Ross Barkley training ahead of the game and expected to feature. Brazilian striker Wesley is closing in on a return but will likely miss out, while Trezeguet has had COVID issues and isn’t available either.

Anwar El Ghazi has been in fine form recently and should be available after a knock, while Bertrand Traore is also expected to be OK. Smith will need as many players as possible with a run of six games in 18 days coming up.

Manchester City have been full of goals despite having striker issues recently, and will be without Sergio Aguero once again when Villa come to town. The Argentine is still isolating after contact with a COVID positive person recently, with Saturday’s game against Cheltenham a potential return date.

Aymeric Laporte is back in training after a thigh injury, but Guardiola confirmed he won’t be part of the squad, but Eric Garcia could return. Nathan Ake is also missing but closing in on a return.

That all means John Stones and Ruben Dias will continue at centre-back, and look to build on their incredible run of form recently. The pair have only conceded one goal in their last five games, and Stones has even chipped in with three goals as he rediscovers the form that caused City to pay £50m for his services.

As mentioned, City will go top of the league if they see off Villa, providing Leicester don’t beat Chelsea by more than four goals on Tuesday night.

Villa have three games in hand on all of the top half of the Premier League, and the table is so congested that if they manage to win all three, they’ll be second when the table levels out.

Manchester City take on Aston Villa on Wednesday, January 20th. Kick-off is at 6pm.

Championship clubs keen on Aston Villa’s Conor Hourihane

The Republic of Ireland international is on the radar of second tier frontrunners AFC Bournemouth and Swansea City.

The 29-year-old has amassed over 100 appearances since his arrival at Villa Park from Barnsley in 2017 and is one of few players in the English game to have scored in all four divisions of the EFL.

Bournemouth boss Jason Tindall – whose side are currently third in the Championship – is reported to be keen to add extra creativity to the Cherries’ midfield.

However, with Jack Wilshere’s recent arrival at the Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth are well stocked in that area and thus may have to ship out some players to squeeze Hourihane in.

That is, of course, if Aston Villa are willing to sell.

Dean Smith has overseen a huge improvement in his side this campaign after narrowly avoiding relegation from the Premier League last season – but Villa’s upturn has largely been without Hourihane’s involvement.

The Irishman has played just 4 times in the top flight this season and hasn’t played a minute of football for Aston Villa since November.

You could argue therefore that Hourihane has been surplus to requirements at Villa Park in recent months and may well fancy his chances elsewhere.

Premier League Preview: Manchester United v Aston Villa

Ole Gunner Solskjaer’s 2nd placed Manchester United face Aston Villa on New Year’s Day and may have their work cut out if they are to keep up with league leaders Liverpool.

The Red Devil’s have steadily worked their way up the Premier League table in recent weeks and will be looking to continue their good run of form against a Villa side who are unbeaten in their last 5 games.

United haven’t tasted defeat since Arsenal visited Old Trafford on November 1st but Dean Smith’s Villains will be no walk in the park.

Villa come into the game off the back of a Jack Grealish inspired 1 all draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge that manager Dean Smith said showed his teams great character.

This ones bound to be a cracker and takes place on New Years Day at 8pm.

Ten-man Aston Villa prove too strong for Crystal Palace

Palace nearly made the perfect start when Wilfried Zaha was played clean through, catching Tyrone Mings on his heels, but Villa goalkeeper Emi Martinez was equal to the attempt.

The hosts then took the lead only five minutes in, when Bertrand Traore played in Ollie Watkins down the right and was on hand to thump the ball into the net after Vicente Guaita parried Watkins’ shot into the middle of the box.

Villa were then, however, reduced to 10-men when Mings stuck out an arm to block Zaha and was shown a second yellow on the stroke of half time.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Villa continued to enjoy the better of the game in the second half.

And the second goal that arrived in the 66th minute was no more than they deserved. Palace failed to defend an El Ghazi free-kick, Watkins headed against the crossbar and Hause followed up to score his second Premier League goal for Villa.

With Palace forced to commit more men forward, Villa looked even more dangerous, and, after Watkins saw a shot blocked, he teed-up El Ghazi for his fourth goal in four games.

The result lifted Villa into the Premier League’s top six – for a few hours at least – while Palace have now conceded 10 goals in two matches after last weekend’s hammering by Liverpool.

Premier League Preview: Aston Villa v Crystal Palace

The Villains have looked brilliant on the road in recent weeks with wins over Leicester, Arsenal, Wolves and West Brom.

But at home they have struggled and Smith will need to change that…….and quick.

His team picked up no casualties in their win over the Baggies last time out and he could name an unchanged line up with Ross Barkley and Ezri Konsa back on the bench.

For Palace, things can’t really get much worse after they were whacked 7-0 by Liverpool last weekend and Roy Hodgson looks certain to change things up.

Christian Benteke is back in the squad after a one game ban with James Tomkins, Michy Batshuayi and James McCarthy all pushing for a starting spot

And Kick Off is set for a 3pm start on Boxing Day at Villa Park

Sam Allardyce’s Premier League return ends in defeat as West Brom lose to Aston Villa

The Baggies played the majority of the game with ten men following Jake Livermore’s red card but Allardyce’s new team were never really in it against the Villa.

Dean Smith’s side were quick out of the traps against the cross city rivals with Anwar El Ghazi putting them in front after just five minutes.

Summer signing Bertrand Traore’s cross drifted over a line of West Brom defenders inside the box and the Dutchman arrived on cue to finish at the back post.

That goal put the Baggies on the back foot before the break and their task was made even harder after Livermore was dismissed for a lunge at Jack Grealish.

With a goal and a man advantage after the restart Villa looked to move through the gears as Scottish international John McGinn headed wide just wide of the post.

But Smith’s side did finally wrap the points up with five minutes to go, as Traore cooly slotted home and El Ghazi netted his second of the night from the spot after Semi Ajayi bundled over Grealish inside the box.

Full Time at The Hawthorns it’s West Brom 0 Aston Villa 3

Premier League: Aston Villa v Burnley

The last time Dean Smith’s side won in front of the Holte End was when Liverpool were humbled 7-2, with a trio of home losses following that historic result.

Brighton, Southampton and Leeds have all beaten Villa since then, but Smith will be hopeful that struggling Burnley will gift him an early Christmas present when the sides kick-off.

It’s probably not the best time to play the Clarets though, as Sean Dyche’s side are buzzing from beating Arsenal on Sunday and have renewed optimism ahead of what looks like being a relegation fight this season.

Sunday’s three points at Wolves did come at a price for Villa, as both Douglas Luiz and Matty Cash will be missing through suspension. Cash picked up his fifth booking of the season, while the Brazilian midfielder was shown a red card for two bookable offences.

There’s better news in the shape of Ross Barkley’s potential return to the squad though, as the England midfielder continues to recover from a hamstring injury. Smith confirmed he will be looked at on the day of the game before a decision is made on his fitness.

Tom Heaton could return to the squad for the first time this season after recovering from a bad ACL injury, but Wesley needs more time after a similar injury and won’t be involved.

Burnley’s tight-knit squad is in good health at the minute, with the Clarets’ form improving since the influential trio of James Tarkowski, Nick Pope and Ben Mee have all been available.

Midfielders Jack Cork and Johan Berg Gudmundsson have been struggling with injuries, but along with Dale Stephens and Phil Bardsley, came through an under-23 game on Monday fine and could make the squad.

Dyche is unlikely to make too many changes to the side that beat Arsenal on Sunday night, with Ashley Westwood and Josh Brownhill continuing in central midfield after the former recovered from an attempted chokeslam by Granit Xhaka.

Aston Villa take on Burnley on Thursday, December 17th. Kick-off is at 6pm.

Premier League Preview: Wolves v Aston Villa

Nuno Santo’s side have been inconsistent in recent weeks with just one win from their last four games in the Premier League.

A win at Arsenal two weeks ago was followed with defeat at Liverpool last time out but the Portuguese boss is only expected to make limited changes to his starting XI.

With Raul Jimenez the only long-term absentee for Santo he could name an unchanged side from the defeat at Anfield.

But if Wolves’ form is a cause for concern for Santo, Dean Smith has even deeper worries with just one win from five for the Villa.

Smith is expected to be a bit more liberal with his changes than Santo with eight players sidelined for the visitors.

Ross Barkley and Keinan Davis are back in training but Smith will not risk them this weekend with a busy run of games coming up.

Matty Cash should shake off a minor knock in time to play and Bertrand Traore and Anwar El Ghazi should also return to freshen up the attack.

Kick Off is 12.30pm tomorrow at Molineux

Premier League Preview: Wolves v Aston Villa

Nuno Santo’s side have been inconsistent in recent weeks with just one win from their last four games in the Premier League.

A win at Arsenal two weeks ago was followed with defeat at Liverpool last time out but the Portuguese boss is only expected to make limited changes to his starting XI.

With Raul Jimenez the only long-term absentee for Santo he could name an unchanged side from the defeat at Anfield.

But if Wolves’ form is a cause for concern for Santo, Dean Smith has even deeper worries with just one win from five for the Villa.

Smith is expected to be a bit more liberal with his changes than Santo with eight players sidelined for the visitors.

Ross Barkley and Keinan Davis are back in training but Smith will not risk them this weekend with a busy run of games coming up.

Matty Cash should shake off a minor knock in time to play and Bertrand Traore and Anwar El Ghazi should also return to freshen up the attack.

Kick Off is 12.30pm tomorrow at Molineux

Barkley facing spell on sidelines with injury

Barkley sustained the injury in the first minute of the game and though initial scans have shown the injury is not too serious, the on-loan Chelsea man is expected to miss next Monday’s trip to West Ham and the following weekend’s home fixture with Newcastle.

An early target for his return could be the Midlands derby against Wolves at Molineux on December 12th.

The news is a blow for Villa manager Dean Smith, after Barkley started his loan spell at the club in fine form, scoring twice in five games and delivering a stunning assist for Ollie Watkins in the 3-0 win over Arsenal before the international break.

Smith is expected to turn to either Bertrand Traore or Conor Hourihane to fill the void, with the Sierra Leone international the man who got the nod to replace Barkley from the bench on Saturday.

The former Lyon man didn’t do his chances of an extended run in the team any harm, providing the assist for Ezri Konsa’s equalising goal.

Villa travel to West Ham next week in hope of extending their impressive away record, having not conceded a single goal on the road this season as they look to continue their 100% record.

Brighton fight back to secure 2-1 Premier League win at Aston Villa

Goals in either half from Danny Welbeck and Solly March secured a vital three points for the Seagulls as Dean Smith’s Villa slip to a third defeat of the season.

Neither side created much in a busy opening quarter of an hour before Welbeck showed an ice cool calmness to put the visitors ahead.

Villa’s attempt to play a high offside trap were exposed by Adam Lallana’s through ball and Welbeck strode on an confidently chipped past Emiliano Martinez.

That early breakthrough opened the game up at both ends, with Bertrand Traore firing a brilliant chance against the post and Neil Maupay bringing the best from Martinez.

Villa worked hard to turn the tide after the restart, and Ezri Konsa deserved edged them level on 47 minutes.

Traore’s deep free kick evaded a line of Brighton defenders and Konsa bravely slid home at the back post.

But just as Villa looked on course to wrestle control of the game away from Brighton, March produced a brilliant strike on the hour.

Pascal Gross switched play to him on the edge of the box and with Villa unable to recover in time, he whipped a fantastic effort past Martinez.

But just as the game seemed to be drifting to a quiet end, referee Michael Oliver put himself right at the centre of the action in added time.

Firstly, he sent off Tariq Lamptey for two tired tackles on Jack Grealish before controversially awarding Villa a 93rd minute spot kick.

He originally awarded a penalty for March’s late challenge on Trezeuget inside the box, but in yet another VAR talking point this season, he opted to overturn the decision and hand Brighton all three points.
Full Time at Villa Park it’s Aston Villa 1 Brighton 2