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Villa vs Blackburn: Extensive Match Preview / Predictions

Aston Villa host their most common enemy of the past few seasons in their opening home game of the Premier League campaign against Blackburn.

It is fair to say that Villa should no what to expect from Rovers, and indeed vice versa, having faced one another 6 times since May of last year. Those meetings include a pre-season friendly in Hong Kong most recently, in which Villa came out 1-0 victors against Steve Kean’s side.

Having lined-up with a seemingly attacking formation last time out that proved to be quite the opposite, it remains to be seen as to whether McLeish will adapt his game at home. The fielding of 3 strikers at Fulham may have seemed ambitious to many, but inevitably saw Heskey and Agbonlahor play in wider roles to little effect.

The crowding in behind Darren Bent can be directly attributed to a somewhat low-key debut from N’Zogbia in my opinion, and changes need to be made.

At least one, if not both of Agbonlahor and Heskey should be sacrificed if McLeish wants to stick with a fluid 4-2-3-1 formation. Marc Albrighton coming in on the right with N’Zogbia left is the most obvious choice in terms of balance, with the likes of Ireland, Bannan and Delph all capable of playing in the free role in midfield- a system which could be ideal in my opinion.

I feel that Heskey’s work rate from last time out cannot be questioned and the big man may have done enough to start in an alternative 4-4-2, with Agbonlahor to prime candidate to drop out of the side. Delph impressed me last weekend and should keep his place alongside Petrov, who I feel should be dropped for Makoun, but won’t be!

Shay Given’s man of the match performance at Craven Cottage undoubtedly caught the eye, though news that he suffered a slight groin strange will have had McLeish sweating. The Irishman is expected to be fit, but Guzan will be on standby just in case and has plenty of experience against Rovers in the numerous Cup encounters of recent years.

Blackburn are also anxiously awaiting to discover whether defenders Chris Samba and Gael Givet will be fit, with Ryan Nelsen still a major doubt. If the duo, and more specifically Samba, cannot start then Villa should win with considerable ease. Touch wood!

Rovers ageing right-back Michel Salgado was shocking in the home defeat to Wolves and could drop out, though injury to Brett Emerton may enforce the veteran’s inclusion.

The three Blackburn players to be wary of in my opinion, are Samba, if fit, David Hoilett from the right and Martin Olsson, most likely to play left-back. Morten Gamst Pedersen’s delivery from set pieces has caused havoc in the Villa box before and will need to be safe guarded against, though Villa’s backline were decent in this regard for a change last week. The hosts will also need to be careful not to underestimate the unknown entity, with new Rovers signings Radosav Petrovic and David Goodwille (teehee) hoping for their first starts.

All-in-all Villa should have the strength to overcome Blackburn and get their first 3 points on the board, with anything less an undeniable disappointment. If Salgado starts than pitting either Albrighton or N’Zogbia directly against the Spaniard could represent the best route for success.

Pre-Match Predictions

Possible Starting XI (4-4-2): Given; Young, Collins, Dunne, Warnock; Albrighton, Petrov, Delph, N’Zogbia; Heskey, Bent

Key Player:
Fabian Delph

Goalscorer(s): Bent x2, N’Zogbia

Final Score: 3-1

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