Saturday 18th September
Opponent: Bolton Wanderers
Venue: Villa Park
Kick Off: 15:00
Tomorrow’s game at Villa Park has been confirmed as caretaker manager, Kevin MacDonald’s last in charge of first team duties. After the game, new boss Gerard Houllier will take the reins and the Frenchman will be hoping MacDonald can leave him in the highest position possible. The last 3 matches at Villa Park between the two sides have seen 16 goals scored so here’s to hoping for a comprehensive victory to give MacDonald the best possible send off.
Villa’s first four games have seen them pick up two wins and two defeats in a somewhat indifferent start to the campaign. The club’s home record makes for impressive reading under MacDonald after a fantastic 3-0 win over West ham on the opening day was followed up by a battling 1-0 victory over Everton. It is on their travels that the club has struggled with a painful 6-0 defeat to Newcastle and a devastating injury time loss at Stoke on Monday night.
The Scotsman currently has a team in good condition with a potential return to fitness of striker John Carew who missed the trip to the Britannia Stadium. In fact Villa’s only real absentee is the long term injury to Fabian Delph who may be out till Christmas. New signing Stephen Ireland could be in for a return although his inclusion may come at the hands of Nigel Reo-Coker. I had singled Reo-Coker out as Villa’s top performer on Monday with an assured display and although it won’t be the case, I would prefer to see Captain Stiliyan Petrov miss out. A tactical surprise like this may see some of the first team regulars on their toes after a season of few changes in personnel under MON.
The home side will be buoyed by the absence of former centre back Gary Cahill, with Andy O’Brien likely to replace the England international who was sent off against Arsenal last week. O’Brien should partner another ex-Villan and lifelong fan Zat Knight at the heart of the Bolton defence. Another key exclusion sees keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen continue a suspension, meaning young Hungarian, Adam Bogdan will make his second start for the club. Joining them in a cluster of unavailable player’s are midfielder’s Tamir Cohen, Sean Davis and Joey O’Brien. Perhaps the best bit of news for Villa could be the possible absence of Captain and club talisman Kevin Davies who is suffering with a facial injury and expected to miss the clash.
With all of these circumstances in Villa’s favour and an unbeaten home league record to protect, the club will be viewing this as a must win game. MacDonald is likely to set up in the same vain as he has so far this season with Ashley Young playing off the striker in a 4-4-1-1 system which should see Gabby Agbonlahor keep his place up front. Young has scored in his previous four appearances against the Trotters and will be looking to build on an excellent record against the club. A clean sheet and 2 goals plus would be a perfect scenario but the visitors are always hard to break down and in Owen Coyle, have a manager who will ensure his side are no pushovers come Saturday.
My Pre-Match Predictions will follow, don’t be shy to pit your wits against my estimations and may the best man win!
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