Sanson and Young start in three changes – Aston Villa predicted XI vs Watford

Steven Gerrard could be set to make changes to his Aston Villa starting XI against Watford after his critical assessment of his team’s performance against Newcastle United last weekend.

Kieran Trippier’s free-kick saw Villa fall to a 1-0 defeat.

Gerrard, 41, explained how “everything” was wrong with Villa’s performance up at St James’ Park on Sunday, while right-back Matty Cash said it was a case of “going back to the drawing board” with Villa picking up just one win in their last seven.

Gerrard will now be looking how to get back to winning ways as Villa host relegation-threatened Watford, a game which is being billed by some sections of fans as a ‘make or break’ for the remainder of the season.

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As the Villa squad step up their final preparations for the encounter, BirminghamLive looks at the options facing Gerrard as he looks for the right formula.

Emi Martinez’s distribution was a little questionable last time out as the Argentinian attempted chipped passes out to Cash and Lucas Digne which were often gobbled up by Newcastle shirts. The 29-year-old will, however, start once again as he looks to rediscover a bit of form having shipped four goals in his last two matches.

Ahead of Martinez, it’s looking likely that the same back four could be in place. Cash and Digne were below-par last weekend but, given the lack of real options to come in, the pair are expected to retain their places. Gerrard, meanwhile, was complimentary towards Tyrone Mings and Calum Chambers on Sunday, with the English duo having to do a lot of defending given the lack of protection in front of them. Kortney Heimat is an option to come in and, while Chambers could move up to defensive midfield, Gerrard will want the ex-Arsenal man to build on his relationship with skipper Mings.

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In midfield for Villa and one man who could do with being taken out of the firing line is Douglas Luiz. The Brazilian has completed all but 13 minutes of the last 11 matches and his form has dipped below the required standard.

Morgan Sanson should be handed just his sixth Premier League start since his £15million transfer 13 months ago. The Frenchman could well come in for Douglas, with Gerrard tasking him to keep Villa on the front foot and the tempo high. Sanson, 27, has played that No.6 role for Marseille previously but, as we know, he’s more natural playing a little higher than a No.8.

Sanson has been left on the bench for the last three Premier League games but he could be a player who Gerrard could turn to as he searches for answers.

Defensive under-23 midfielder Tim Iroegbunam, meanwhile, is expected to be eased in rather than being chucked in from the start in the Premier League.

Either side of Sanson and, again given the lack of options, Gerrard could look for a reaction from both John McGinn and Jacob Ramsey with the pair underwhelming at St James’ Park.

Should Gerrard stick with his 4-3-2-1 system, there’s an expectation that Ashley Young could come in as a No.10 – like he did in the win over Palace in November. On Sunday, Emi Buendia had a hip issue vs Newcastle which could have hampered him and could be rested vs Watford, with Philippe Coutinho – one of just three players Gerrard commended after the Newcastle defeat – starting once again.

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Up front for Villa and, given Ollie Watkins’ struggles of late, Danny Ings is expected to be given his first start since the 2-2 draw with Manchester United last month. The 29-year-old will be looking to score his fifth Premier League goal of the season.

Here’s how we believe Villa will line-up on Saturday – let us know your preferred XI in the comments section here.

BirminghamLive’s predicted Aston Villa XI vs Watford: Martinez; Cash, Chambers, Mings, Digne; McGinn, Sanson, J. Ramsey; Coutinho, Young; Ings.

BirminghamLive's predicted Aston Villa XI with Ashley Young perhaps a surprise starter against Watford
BirminghamLive’s predicted Aston Villa XI with Ashley Young perhaps a surprise starter against Watford

Squad from: Olsen, Sinisalo, Heimat, Chrisene, Chukwuemeka, Bailey, Douglas Luiz, Iroegbunam, Buendia, Watkins.

Unavailable: Konsa (suspended), Nakamba (knee), Traore (hamstring).

Watford last time out vs Brighton, lost 2-0: Foster; Femenia, Cathcart, Samir, Kamara; Kucka (Sarr, 46), Cleverley (Joao Pedro, 70), Sissoko, Kayemebe (Louza, 46); King, Dennis.


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