How could Aston Villa line up for Premier League opener?
Aston Villa have been cut into 5/2 for Premier League relegation by Coral following the high-profile departures of captain Fabian Delph and star striker Christian Benteke.
This begs the question what will Tim Sherwood’s starting XI look like when the Villans travel to Bournemouth on the Premier League opening day? Our football experts have got their heads together, and here’s how we think they will line up…
Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan
USA stopper Guzan should retain his status as number one after Shay Given left for Midlands rivals Stoke City. Bosman capture Mark Bunn and Jed Steer will act as backup.
Right back: Alan Hutton
Scotland defender Hutton will face stiff competition from Leandro Bacuna for this berth, but we expect him to win it.
Replacing Ron Vlaar in the heart of the Villa defence is summer signing Micah Richards. He sees himself as a centre half now. Swiss flop Philippe Senderos should be firmly benched behind former Manchester City man Richards.
Centre back: Jores Okore
Ivorian-born Denmark international Okore should put his injury problems behind him and establish himself alongside Richards. Villa academy products Nathan Baker and Ciaran Clark are there in reserve.
Sherwood has netted Amavi from Nice in a bid to solve a problem position. Fellow Frenchman Aly Cissokho just can’t seem to cut it at Premier League level, and the same can be said of Joe Bennett. Kieran Richards looks most likely to act as backup at left back.
Right wing: Scott Sinclair
Like Richards, ex-Man City player Sinclair shall be looking to rebuild his career at Villa, and is set to esablish himself ahead of Charles N’Zogbia in the pecking order.
Delph’s replacement Gueye can expect to come straight into midfield with Tom Cleverley moving to Everton after his loan spell ended. Another anchorman Carlos Sanchez is an alternative.
Central midfield: Ashley Westwood
Crewe Alexandra academy product Westwood has a key role to play in the engine room following Delph’s departure. Young Gary Gardner impressed on loan at Nottingham Forest, and clearly has a future at Villa, which is more than can be said for Spanish winter window signing Carles Gil or Joe Cole, whose career is coming to an end.
Left wing: Jack Grealish
Sherwood shall surely overlook Grealish’s unfortunate holiday snaps and make this talented youngster knuckle down. That remarkable effect the manager has on youngsters should mean Aleksandar Tonev will struggle to get into Villa’s XI after a hit-and-miss loan spell at Celtic which was punctuated by controversy.
At the time of writing, the deal for the younger Ayew brother is almost done after elder sibling Andre earlier moved from Marseille to Swansea City. Gabriel Agbonlahor’s place could come under threat despite his clubman status.
Striker: Emmanuel Adebayor
It’s long been expected that Sherwood will move for former Spurs charge Adebayor, and we expect an all-African attack with the Togo frontman joining Ghana international Ayew up top. Libor Kozak could yet prove his worth leading the line, however, after returning from a broken leg.