Aston Villa v Brighton | throughout the international break Villa fans have been voting for their strongest team and the results were conclusive as Dean Smith prepares his side for Brighton on Saturday
It shows how far Aston Villa have come knowing an insanely-talented Brazilian who once ripped it up at the Bernabeu can’t get nowhere near Dean Smith’s starting XI.
Douglas Luiz has a ridiculous knack of scoring worldie after worldie and scored from outside the box yet again while on international duty captaining the Brazilian under-23s.
It took the £15million summer signing from Man City all of five minutes to spank one into the top corner at Carrow Road a fortnight ago after coming on as a substitute.
It’s likely, though, that Douglas will have to take his place on the bench at Villa Park once again this weekend.
The reasoning, as Villa supporters have said, is simple: you can’t change a winning team, especially one who performed so well together against Norwich.
In our latest Aston Villa fan survey, we asked hundreds of supporters this simple question: What is Villa’s strongest XI when everyone is fit and available? The response was, well, incredibly overwhelming and it’s likely Smith will go with what the fans are all in agreement with.
“The same side at Norwich,” was what the majority of supporters penned into BirminghamLive, sticking with the exact, free-flowing formation Smith went for with Jack Grealish out wider with Conor Hourihane alongside Marvelous Nakamba and John McGinn in the middle.
Of the 100 or so responses, there were a few that featured Egyptian winger Trezeguet possibly coming in for either Hourihane or Anwar El Ghazi out wide.
Shakeel Hussein wrote: “I’d like to see a 4-2-3-1 with following, Heaton GK, Guilbert RB, Engels RCB, Mings LCB, Targett LB, Douglas Luiz RDM, Nakamba LDM, McGinn RAM, Hourihane CAM, Grealish LAM, Wesley ST.”
Another interesting idea was put forward by Paul Lee, from Birmingham, who said: “I’d actually like to see a change of formation, similar to how England play now.
“Heaton, a back 3; Engels, Mings and Konsa. 2 wing backs; Guilbert and Targett. Marvellous sitting deep with Grealish, McGinn and Jota played further up behind Wesley.”
Overall, though, it’s that Villa side who hammered Norwich which is seen as Smith’s strongest XI – and credit there must go to Villa’s Cork hard man, Hourihane, who has battled his way back after being abruptly dropped earlier in the campaign.
The back five (including Heaton) you’d say is pretty much set in stone now given rock-solid displays of late while, in midfield, Zimbabwean Nakamba has been absolutely everywhere, mopping things up while allowing Villa’s forward players to flourish.
How many points will Aston Villa take from their next five fixtures?
2000+ VOTES SO FAR
McGinn has been majestic as everybody knows and Smith is now getting the best out of skipper Grealish who’s playing in a more advanced inside forward role floating in and off Wesley up top. El Ghazi’s form on the right-hand side has improved significantly, too. The Dutch winger is starting to add real consistency to his game now which is needed in the Premier League.
Here’s the XI Smith is expected to pick for Brighton on Saturday – and there’s no surprises:
VILLA (4-3-3): Heaton; Guilbert, Engels, Mings, Targett; Nakamba; McGinn, Hourihane; El Ghazi, Wesley, Grealish.
Subs: Steer, Konsa, Taylor, Douglas Luiz, Trezeguet, Lansbury, Davis.
Brighton (4-2-2-2): Ryan; Montoya, Webster, Dunk, Burn; Alzate, Stephens; Gross, Mooy; Maupay, Connolly.
Subs: Button, March, Murray, Jahanbakhsh, Balogun, Bissouma, Bong.