The weekend draws to a close with Villa at The Hawthorns tonight following a dominating but goalless performance against Burnley. Who can forget the drama of our last visit? Just been watching some clips on Twitter, in fact. Nice to look back on how far we’ve come.
On paper, Villa would certainly be certainly favored, but the Baggies will be looking for that new-manager bounce, and are certainly going to be a bit like cornered animals. Their record, though, at 1-4-8 suggests Big Sam has his work cut out for him.
However, Sam’s a known quantity, so it shouldn’t be hard for Smith & Co to have some idea what to expect. And Craig Shakespeare has worked with Allardyce, giving the backroom staff as good a chance as any to anticipate how Albion might approach the game. Last time out they notched a credible 1-1 draw with City, which wasn’t enough to save Bilic, and it’s probably not going to be a walk in the park.
For their part, Villa are going to want to kick on from Thursday. As we know, all that was missing was one good finish, and the luck, such as it was, went with Burnley on the night. An ultimately frustrating match could well have been a thrashing. But, it just wasn’t meant to be. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that all the subs coming in acquitted themselves well. Including El Ghazi, even though he lacked the finishing touch. Did just about everything else right, and with Villa a little bereft of options, no reason for Smith not to go with him again and show a little faith.
The top half looks to be settling in as expected, with Everton and Southampton being the ‘surprise’ inclusions. Watching United up 4-1 at the half right now, I’m reminded that sooner or later the quality will make itself evident. Just like we were reminded by Liverpool’s 7-0 thrashing of Palace. Which isn’t to say Leeds are out of this one, but if you want to see evidence of a lack of Plan B, Bielsa gives you one. 5-1, now. Whoops, 6-1. Graeme Le Saux is calling Leeds’ style “chaotic.” 6-2. You have to give them credit, all in, all the time. (Sorry, having fun with this.)
Anyway, back to Villa, and Ross Barkley once again will be assessed before kickoff, but given the number of chances created without him, and with Luiz and Cash returning, I feel sure he won’t be rushed given he’ll have another week until Palace on Saturday. If he features, we can be confident he’s fit.
I’m going to hold off posting this until I see the team news so I don’t go wasting a bunch of time typing speculation. Me, I think we’ll see the same. Let’s see if I’m right…
And I am:
Martinez, Cash, Hause, Mings, Targett, Luiz, McGinn, Grealish, El Ghazi, Traoré, Watkins
Davis, Hourihane, Taylor, Steer, Engels, Ramsey, Nakamba, Guilbert, Elmohamady
So, let’s spoil Sam’s party, get three, and climb back into the top half.