The Baggies ‘entertain’ Aston Villa this evening in their first game with Big Sam as their manager. I use the word ‘entertain’ with reservation as the Baggies will not offer any entertainment from a footballing perspective. The lack of proper football under Bilic was there for all to see. This was understandable as they are basically a mid-table Championship team masquerading as a Premier League team.
But with Big Sam now calling the shots I think the Baggies will make Burnley’s performance against us last Thursday night look Barcelona. I think Covid has done the Baggies fans a huge favour by banning fans from the games. I am assuming even they will be able to appreciate how dire the football will be under Big Sam.
Villa Is A Bigger Club
Villa is a bigger and better club to WBA in every possible way. History, stadium, owners, money, management team, head coach, players, youth development, ladies team, facilities, fans, and most importantly a positive future. We must show we are a bigger club this evening by not giving the Tesco Bags even the slightest sniff of getting anything from this game. This game should be another nail in the Baggies relegation coffin. However, I do hope they pick up a few points this season as it would be proper entertainment if Villa were to relegate the Baggies when they visit Villa Park on April 24th for the return leg.
Villa Must Assert Our Superiority
Football is a funny old game and even the worst footballing teams in the Premier League will have their 15 minutes of fame. Didn’t Norwich give Man City a good beating at Carrow Road last season. Villa must assert our superiority and not make this evening’s game the Baggies 15 minutes of fame.
They have some things going for them and we need to be aware of this. Significantly, this is the Baggies Cup Final this season and they will probably be well up for the game. For Villa, it is just another game against a team counting the days till relegation. Further, they have a new manager in the form of Big Sam. This is the perfect game for them as they may benefit from ‘new manager bounce’. Also, Big Sam won’t have been there long enough to completely kill off any ideology of trying to play football that Bilic had thought them.
Dean’s Team Selection
Hopefully, our team selection will be fairly straightforward. Cash and Luiz return form suspension. Barkley is hopefully fit again and I believe that Trezequet is still injured. Cash will return as out right back. Luiz will return as defensive midfield. Barkley back in as attacking midfield and Grealish will go back to the left side of our front three (where he is better than in a central role).
The open position which requires a decision is the right side of our attacking front 3. The choice is El Ghazi or Traore. Yes, El Ghazi had a good game against Burnley and had 8 shots on goal but I would opt for Traore to start. I like Traore, he needs to improve but I see aspects of his game that make me think he will become a good player for Villa. He needs a run of games and Dean needs to afford him this opportunity.
Villa Starting 11
How The Game Will Unfold
Prior to the appointment of Big Sam, the Baggies had built a reputation of ineptitude in front of goal and comically stupid defending. They balanced this with an average of about 30% possession during games to give them the slim hope of getting a goal on the break after boring their opposition into complacency. Their record signing Karlan Grant (15m) has managed one goal this season. It is very difficult to judge him as a player as he gets no service from his teammates. I don’t expect much threat from him nor the rest of the Baggies but maybe it is a chance to rest our defensive players and Martinez and give the young lads a chance to play with the senior team?
We must play to our strengths and we need to be much more clinical in front of goal. Luiz will add to our attacking threat as he is much more forward-minded a player to Nakamba. Villa’s ability to unlock a defense and show our qualities tends to rest with the relationship between Grealish and Barkley. When these guys click we are unstoppable as Liverpool discovered the hard way. If Barkley is fit to start I expect a bag full of goals to go along with our 25+ shots and our dominance in possession. If Barkley doesn’t play we will find it much more difficult. This does not mean we won’t dominate the game. It is just a sign that we need that extra bit of quality in the midfield when Barkley is not available.
What The Bookies Think
Villa win: 10/11
Baggies win: 14/5
10/11 looks like very tempting odds for a Villa win. Put a grand on that and you will nearly double your money.
When & Where To Watch
For most of us, kick-off is at 19:15 on BT Sport 1 with the pre-match warm-up starting at 18:45. For those of us lucky enough to be living on the beautiful West Coast of Canada kick-off is at 11:15am and is available on DAZN. Some of us will be enjoying a few beers and others will be tucking into some Canadian bacon with maple syrup with some fluffy waffles. Personally, I would like both!