Short answer, it might. Given the differences in squad depth and fitness, Villa will inevitably field a weaker side than the one that lost to Chelsea 0-3 just over a week ago. Smith has said all the right things about the quality available to both sides, and how they both want to win and progress. But it’s clear that Villa will have one hand tied behind their back.
Fans have been salivating at the prospect of a fully fit starting XI as Everton come to Villa Park, but no one has known what that would mean, especially given the two Emis have only just returned from Croatian quarantine. We do, however, have our first indication that 3-5-2 won’t just be a novelty formation for Villa this season.
Martinez, as expected, comes straight back in, and Buendia finds himself on the bench, as well, which is not surprising, given his lack of involvement in team training this week. The big news is that Villans excited to see Leon Bailey start will have to wait, as Dean Smith goes with the same set-up as last week, leaving out both Bailey and Bertrand Traoré.
I think this can be a tidy side. There was slick passing and interplay. Villa weren’t slow on the ball. Good positional reading, combativeness, and energy. What Villa look like with a preferred (and very much debated) starting XI is beginning to look appetizing.
Yes, some are fretting, but here’s a sober look about Villa’s summer business and season prospects.
The annual cup runs begin this evening with Villa traveling to Barrow for a second-round Carabao Cup tie on the heels of a 2-0 victory over Newcastle. It was good to get that first win of the season under the belt, and it will be interesting to see who features for Villa tonight given the niggling injuries, fitness issues, players to bed in and youngsters knocking on the door.