Aston Villa will be looking to begin Steven Gerrard’s tenure with consecutive victories when they take on Crystal Palace in their Premier League clash this afternoon.
The Villans secured all three points against Brighton and Hove Albion last time out thanks to two late strikes from Tyrone Mings and Ollie Watkins, and they’ll be hoping to carry that momentum into today’s encounter.
In Friday’s press conference, Gerrard confirmed that he should have a couple of extra bodies back in his matchday squad as he goes in search of another three points.
“Douglas Luiz will come back into the squad this weekend,” said the former Rangers boss. “He’s trained well. I’ll decide late whether he’ll go in from the start or will come into the game.”
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However, fellow midfielder Morgan Sanson is still lacking the match fitness required to feature from the off, despite appearing on the bench last weekend against the Seagulls.
“Morgan is starting to look fitter and stronger as the days go by but he needs more work and more training sessions before he’s fully ready,” said Gerrard, who added that the Frenchman will be in the squad for the trip to south London.
That’s where the good news ended on the fitness front for Villa fans, however. Bertrand Traore, who has been out since the beginning of October with a thigh injury, is still unavailable for selection.
“We need to be patient,” Gerrard explained. “He is progressing well but he’s still quite a few weeks away from being around the team.”
With that in mind, here’s how Football FanCast expects the 41-year-old to line up at Selhurst Park, with just one change from the side which started against Brighton…
The virtually ever-present Emiliano Martinez will take up his usual residency in between the sticks after making an impressive start to the current campaign.
Ahead of the Argentina international is set to be a familiar back four. Matt Targett, Tyrone Mings, Ezri Konsa and Matty Cash should complete the defensive unit once again, so Manchester United loanee Axel Tuanzebe will have to settle for a place on the bench.
In midfield, the hard-working trio of Marvelous Nakamba, Jacob Ramsey and John McGinn should all keep their places as Luiz battles his way back to full fitness.
The only area where Gerrard may be tempted to shake things up is across the forward line. Emiliano Buendia is still searching for his first goal since August, so the £31.5m-rated summer signing may be relegated to the substitutes’ bench today.
That should present an opportunity for Leon Bailey to feature from the off alongside Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings, while the former Southampton striker is another summer addition who will be desperate to rediscover his best form. He has scored just once since August but boasts an enviable record against Palace in the past.