Apart from Digne’s and Konsa’s absences, there are no changes to the side, suggesting the same tactics as last week. A bit harsh on Buendia, I think, but you understand not changing a winning side, and this approach isn’t leaving room for him if Philippe Coutinho is going to start. Which he is. Whether he can be more influential this week, we’ll be waiting to see. The Ings-Watkins experiment will continue, but the hybrid 4-3-3/4-4-2 is maybe not the worst idea at the moment.
So, wherever Villa end up, it’s a big second half. Everyone will expect us to climb strongly. Getting a European spot is a big, big ask, though. Possible, but not likely. If it happens, all good. If it doesn’t, I expect at least one more summer and season to try and get us there without a reset. Which could mean a round of big changes at more than one level.
The shine on Gerrard will depend mightily on how this plays out. Villa have done smart business, so it’s not as though the future has been mortgaged. But as elated as everyone is at the moment seeing Coutinho in a Villa shirt, the hard parts are yet to come.