Aston Villa begin life under Steven Gerrard with a home clash against Brighton & Hove Albion at Villa Park.
With Leeds not in action until Sunday, victory would lift Villa up to 14th if Brentford lose at Newcastle whereas Brighton can go fifth with a win for a few hours at least.
Danny Ings could return for Aston Villa after recovering from a bout of Coronavirus and a hamstring injury, which forced him to miss Villa’s last two matches.
Douglas Luiz (hamstring) is also in contention to return but Marvelous Nakamba (groin), Bertrand Traore (thigh) and Trezeguet (knee) are ruled out.
Brighton will be without Robert Sanchez after the Spaniard was red carded in the Seagulls’ 1-1 draw at home to Newcastle prior to the international break.
Enock Mwepu (adductor), Aaron Connolly (heel) and Dan Burn (knee) are doubts but Steven Alzate (ankle) and Danny Welbeck (hamstring) remain ruled out.
- Aston Villa are unbeaten in three of four Premier League meetings against Brighton (W1, D2, L1).
- Brighton have won just one of 13 visits to Villa Park since WWI (W9, D3, L1).
- Both teams have each won 2-1 in their two previous Premier League meetings at Villa Park.
- Both of John McGinn’s two league goals for Villa this season have been scored on his left foot.
- No English player has produced more passes this season in the Premier League than Brighton’s Lewis Dunk, who has played 781 passes in 11 appearances.
Having lost five straight matches which saw Dean Smith unsurprisingly sacked, Villa now need to deliver a reaction but Gerrard’s first priority surely has to be addressing their toothless defence, which was their biggest downfall at Southampton last time out because the attacking quality is still there.
Brighton meanwhile seemed to have dropped their steam a bit in the past month yet are grinding out results with just one loss in their last eight matches, which is reminiscent of how champions often dig deep to scrape points together and could be crucial come end of season.
I though would like to see Graham Potter find a way to get Brighton playing with more intensity to match their patience in attack, especially with this match representing a good opportunity for a win given Villa’s defensive issues but the Villains still look dangerous going forward at times.
On that note, this should be a decent contest given that Villa Park will be bouncing with Gerrard taking charge of his first match as Villa boss, yet I can see Brighton winning if they can find that extra gear in their attack.
Prediction: Aston Villa 1-2 Brighton
Result: Aston Villa 2-0 Brighton