Burnley vs Aston Villa – Pre-game Assessment

Sunday, August 27, 2 pm Venue: Turf Moor
Referee: Michael Salisbury

What a difference a week can make!

Last Friday we were on tenterhooks about how our Villans would respond after the Newcastle debacle.  As it was, the performance against Everton was even better than we might have hoped for with four excellent goals and a shutout to complement the all-important three points.

In hindsight, there were positives to take from the game in addition to the 4-0 result.  Specifically, Jhon Duran removed the stress of not having yet justified his signing with a goal and doing so in style.  Then there was the bonus of Pau Torres not only being faultless in replacing Tyrone Mings but adding his ball carrying and precision passing facility to the squad’s mix.

Beyond that, Ollie Watkins’ happy embrace of Douglas Luiz upon the Brazilian taking the yoke of penalty-taking from him and scoring the all-important second goal, said everything we needed to know about the team spirit.  It was this relief that Ollie carried into Villa’s Europa opening fixture at Hibernia on Wednesday and he built upon that by tallying a brilliant hat-trick.  Each goal came with an equally exquisite build-up.

The first goal against Hibs, a masterful flick of the head that deposited the ball just inside the right post was possible because Lucas Digne’s first-time arcing and spinning cross required only the finest of touches.  Not surprisingly, Digne was assisted by a perfectly weighted and directed delivery courtesy of John McGinn.

Ollie’s second goal was similarly thanks to two great assists, the first a zipped corner from Luiz that Diego Carlos met at the near post to divert for our striker to run onto at the back post and, off the bounce, unleash a powerful bullet with his noggin that gave the goalie no chance.

The third goal was initiated by a perfect pass by Torres down the left wing for Digne, running clear, to take one touch to control the ball and a second touch to find Watkins running beyond his markers in the box and redirecting into the prone goalie’s left corner. 

Another excellent headed goal, this time by Bailey (assisted by the same Digne/McGinn duo) and a crisply dispatched penalty by Luiz rounded out the scoring (5-0) and made the second leg of this fixture a formality.  What a great warm-up for a visit to Burnley’s Turf Moor stadium.

This does not augur well for the mindset of Vincent Kompany and his squad.  Having prevailed as the winners of the 2022 Championship League by 10 points and winning their last three games, they would have been hoping for an easier opener than against Premier League Champions (Manchester City).  They limited the damage by playing a disciplined game, only losing 3-0 in front of their home fans.  The opportunity to offset that loss by taking on fellow promoted Luton Town last weekend was nixed by having the game rescheduled due to delays in upgrading the Hatters’ stadium.

The Burnley Clarets (yes, they imitated Aston Villa’s strip back in 1910) have been waiting to get some points on the board while our Villa are hitting their stride in style.

The rear-view mirror will not help those Clarets either.  Villa’s last visit to Turf Moor was May 7. 2022 and a 3-1 defeat to our Claret and Blues was part of the slide that sunk them into the Championship for last season.

Late Breaking News:

In Friday’s press, Unai Emery expressed his desire to get Nicolò Zaniolo into the game at Turf Moor.  He will likely start on the bench and be introduced when circumstances are conducive.  Obviously, a comfortable lead with no injured players having to be replaced would be perfect.  Fingers crossed.

The other big news but no surprise, is that Phillipe Coutinho has reportedly agreed a move to join Qatari side Al Duhail.  It was almost inevitable from the moment Emery became Villa’s manager.  The Spaniard is very realistic, and he recognized that the Reds’ wizard was well past his prime and the only question was how to “stage” an overpriced Brazilian to minimize the team’s losses.  The last straw was seeing Phil go down on his own with a hammie against Everton.  Any delay in selling could have cost more millions in losses.

As for Emi Martinez, he may have to be held out of the game if his minor calf injury is not 100%.  While we fans always want him out there for every minute of every game, we also have to accept that we need to be able to win without, arguably, the world’s best keeper.  This is as good an opportunity as any to prove that.

Result Prediction:

As fluid as our Villans were against Everton and Hibs, a Vincent Kompany team will be a sterner test and one that may make our lads frustrated.  That, and the home crowd, will make this game one that we’ll have to work hard to prevail.  We are saying a Villa win, but a close one: Burnley 1, Aston Villa 2.

Predicted Villa Line-Up:

Despite, Emery’s one change to his line-up for the Hibs game (bringing in Diego Carlos for Cash), we predict the Villa line-up to be the same as started against Everton with Olsen 50/50 start in goal.

Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Torres, Digne, Bailey, Kamara, Luiz, McGinn, Diaby, Watkins

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