Club Focus – Aston Villa – Back to business for the Villans

Aston Villa and Burnley have both had the international break to prepare for their Premier League clash on Saturday and even though Burnley find themselves in tenth place above all expectations, Martin O’Neill believes that his side will be able to cause Burnley plenty of problems.

Burnley have the home advantage at Turf Moor where they have won five games already this season, however O’Neill will hope that his side will be able to carry on a good League run.

In defence, Villa are likely to remain unchanged with the back four of Carlos Cuellar, Richard Dunne, James Collins and Stephen Warnock. Collins looks to return to the squad after returning from a groin injury, whilst Dunne will partner him with a determined attitude for success after Ireland’s failure to reach to 2010 World Cup. Warnock on the other hand was not given a chance for England against Brazil and so he will have to produce the same quality of performances that earned him a call-up in the first place.

Moving to the midfield, O’Neill will be playing Ashley Young and James Milner on the wings, in the hope that their intelligent wide play will cause problems for the Burnley defence and as a result create some chances for the Villa strikers. The centre of midfield should consist of Styliyan Petrov and Nigel Reo-Coker as the Villans will need a holding midfielder to impose their authority on the game. James Milner produced an impressive performance for England against Brazil last Saturday and in doing so he increased his chances of getting on the plane to South Africa next summer. His fellow teammate Ashley Young was only given a few minutes playing time in the friendly and therefore he will have to prove to Fabio Capello that he has enough talent to secure a place in the England World Cup squad.

Up in attack, Gabriel Agbonlahor is extremely likely to start after a brilliant run of form has seen him score seven goals already this season. John Carew looks likely to partner Agbonlahor upfront after he cemented his place in the squad after Villa’s 5-1 thrashing of Bolton two weeks ago. However, with Emile Heskey making a speedy recovery from injury, it is likely that he will play a part against Burnley, in the hope that he will be able to use his experience against the opposition defence.

The Villans have enough quality to see off a newly promoted Burnley side and as they are lying fifth in the Premier League table they will want to remain in this position to both prevent teams from overtaking them as well as to keep pressure on the current top four teams. Recently Burnley have had much success at their home ground, most notably with a win against Manchester United and if Villa do not perform straight away, Owen Coyle’s team may be able to put pressure on the Villans in search for a result.

Moving away from Saturday’s game, Stewart Downing looks as though he is also making a speedy recovery from injury as he has just resumed full training. O’Neill was quick to show his delight on Downing’s return by saying that “it will literally be a metaphor for getting a new player. It is encouraging.” When he returns, the England international is certain to make an immediate impact in the claret and blue kit and most importantly provides some more depth within Villa squad, particularly in the choice for wide players. The Villa manager also said that he was impressed with the progress of young striker Nathan Delfouneso who scored for the England under-19s. By stating that he is “really knocking on the door of the Premier League for us” , O’Neill is suggesting that the 19-year-old will play a part in the Villans’ Premier League campaign and time will tell if he has the quality of becoming a leading striker in the League.

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