Aston Villa’s new life in the Championship will finally begin tomorrow as the side travels to Hillsborough to face Sheffield Wednesday.
After months of rumours and speculation, Aston Villa was finally taken over by Dr. Tony Xia’s Recon Group from China. Since then a lot of work has gone on behind the scenes to hopefully ensure the Villans will be well equipped to aim for promotion this season.
Since we got relegated from the Premier League, Roberto Di Matteo was announced as the new manager. His arrival only five weeks ago meant that he has had relatively little time with his players but the pre-season trip to Austria helped Di Matteo to familiarise himself with his new squad.
First on the menu is an interesting trip to face the Owls.
Venue: Hillsborough Stadium
Date: Sunday 7th August 2016
Sheffield Wednesday boss Carlos Carvalhal has made some astute signings during this transfer window in order to help his team’s bid to earn promotion.
Last season, the Owls were bitterly disappointed to lose in the Championship play-off final against Hull City so it was imperative for them to straighten their squad to aid their promotion push in 2016-17.
The Owls can boast a fully fit squad this weekend, as there were no fresh injury concerns from their pre-season schedule.
The Villans will have to do without a couple of players, however.
Jordan Amavi didn’t feature in pre-season too much as he was regaining his fitness from his long injury, but there have been a few whispers that he may start against Sheffield Wednesday.
Gabby Agbonlahor may not feature as he is coming back from an injury he sustained in pre-season. It will be interesting to see if he does play a part this month because it has been rumoured that he is one of the players who has been told he may be on the transfer list. The same applies to Micah Richards, who also seems to be nearing a return from a knee injury.
Adama Traore may miss out due to only joining up with the squad this week. Di Matteo has said he needs to assess him further so tomorrow’s game will probably come too soon for the dynamic winger.
Di Matteo’s new recruits are all likely to feature in tomorrow’s game, with Pierluigi Gollini, new captain Tommy Elphick, Aaron Tshibola and Ross McCormack all looking to make their mark in claret and blue.
The danger men:
The name that most Villa fans will be familiar with is Barry Bannan. The former Villa man seems to be in the form of his career so far. The Scotland international was included in last season’s ‘Championship team of the season’, which is testament to how well he played for Sheffield Wednesday in 2015-16.
Barry Bannan will be looking to control the game from the middle of the park so it will be up to our midfielders to nullify that threat and force Sheffield Wednesday onto the back foot.
Stephen Fletcher will be another one to look out for. The Scotland international striker was a free transfer for Sheffield Wednesday. His experience could prove to be vital to a strikeforce that is already very good. Fernando Forestieri and Gary Hooper scored twenty-eight goals between them last season, so the Villa defenders will have their work cut out in containing their threat.
This game is one which will tell us a lot about this Aston Villa side. Should we go out and put in a good display, the fans will be encouraged that the overall plan is working for Di Matteo and, given time, we could have a new identity in our play style.
I think there will be goals in this game but, because it’s our first away game in a new division, we should be looking to get a positive result. A draw wouldn’t be a bad result against a team that is expected to challenge for a top six position come the end of the season, but a win would send a serious signal to the naysayers in the media who don’t think we’ll be serious contenders.
This season is going to be a long, hard graft and we cannot take any games for granted, as Newcastle United found out on Friday evening with their loss to Fulham. I think we could win this game, so I’ll go for either a 3-1 win or a 2-2 draw.