Aston Villa finally kick-off their first season in the Championship in the Premier League era as we know it. They will travel to Hillsborough Stadium to face Sheffield Wednesday who lost out in the play-offs last season. While the club have managed to restore a degree of faith and hope amongst the supporters over the summer, there is still a fair amount of trepidation amongst all on how they would respond on the pitch. The memories of the team’s abysmal displays last season could immediately come back if they go through a similar period during the match initially. Di Matteo will be aware of that and must have briefed his players to focus on the match and the discussed tactics and not dwell on the past.
Also, as Fulham showed Newcastle yesterday that just signing players and thrashing Spurs 5-1 recently would count for zilch in the hardcore and unforgiving Championship. Aston Villa would want to start over from the scratch and look to get the crowd behind them as they embark on the new season.
The club appointed Roberto Di Matteo as the manager and the Italian signed a handful of players as he looked to put his stamp on the squad. Di Matteo comes with undoubted pedigree having previously won the FA cup and Champions League with Chelsea and the Villans will be hoping he is able to apply his Midas touch on the shambolic affairs at the Villa Park.
He has overseen the signings of Ross McCormack, Tommy Elphick, Pierluigi Gollini and Aaron Tshibola who will look to impress the manager and cement their places in the team.
The latest league meeting between these two sides can be dated back to 1999/2000 Premier League season. And Villa are on a five-match winning run against Sheffield Wednesday. However, the last meeting was in the 2001/02 League Cup, which Sheffield won by 1-0 on November 2001.
Di Matteo has trialled a number of formations over the pre-season and it would be anybody’s guess to predict the set-up he is going to employ in the first match.
We will go with a 4-4-2 line-up which will help Di Matteo to accommodate McCormack if he decides to bring the striker on in the latter stages.
Gollini is in line to start in goal with Cissokho, Baker, Elphick, Hutton in front of him. Bacuna, Westwood, Gardner, Grealish will most likely be stationed in midfield with a front two of Ayew and Gestede initially.