Aston Villa vs West Ham – Pre-game Assessment

Our Villans will run onto the field at Villa Park late this Sunday afternoon and feel a chill in the air.  This will be irrespective of the temperature.  The chill will be a direct response to the sky-high confidence of David Moyes’s team after prevailing over Man City in the EFL (Carabao) Cup Round of 16 on penalty kicks.  As Benrahma stepped forward to take the fifth kick, the game was his to win. He did not fail them.  This was, incidentally, Moyes’s first win over Pep Guardiola ever, and coincided with a similarly successful run in the Europa League where all their wins have been with shutouts.

That West Ham fielded a team packed with subs, including their goalkeeper, yet topped the winner of the last four competitions showed their manager’s enormous belief in his full squad.  Of course, it could also signify his prioritization of this weekend’s Premier League game.

Villa fans and players will all be looking for reasons to believe. Our performances in the last three weeks (losses to Spurs, Wolves, and Arsenal) will give us no comfort, nor West Ham’s position in the table (4th to our 13th).  Casting back to last season’s visit of the Hammers will be equally unrewarding as that will remind us how their loan of Jesse Lingard compared with our failed experiment with Scott Barkley.  Yet, without Lingard this season, West Ham has not missed a beat.

One sign of encouragement can be culled from the two losses posted by the Hammers (both by scores of 2-1).  While they were both at home, they came against opponents that we either beat (Man U) or tied (Brentford).

The one scintilla of weakness in this West Ham squad might be at right-back where the exceptional Czech international, Vladimir Coufal, will likely miss the game as he recovers from a groin injury. For this position, they have no outstanding replacement.

Smith will, arguably, have his strongest team starting by reverting to a 4-3-3 configuration and getting Mings more outside support from Targett and, similarly, Konsa from Cash.  McGinn, Luiz, and Ramsey has proven to be our most effective midfield trio. Bailey, meanwhile, has shown he does have an impact and he should be ready to play a strong sixty minutes if not a full game. 

I have to believe that we have it in us to match this other claret and blue team.  We just have to summon up belief and want it badly enough, and pray that Martinez can get back in time.

My prediction is 1-1.

UTV.

Aston Villa likely starting XI

Martinez; Cash, Mings, Konsa; Targett, Luiz, McGinn, Ramsey, Ings, Watkins, Bailey

West Ham likely starting XI

Fabianski, Fredericks, Zouma, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Soucek, Rice, Bowen, Fornals, Benrahma, Antonio

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