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Aston Villa preview

In the aftermath of Thursday's UEFA Cup defeat, Mark Hughes was calling for patience, staying it will 'take time' to get things right, an admission that is slightly concerning as we head into our opening Premier League fixture which marks a tough opening for us.

Plenty of doom surrounds the club of course at present, with confidence around the club no doubt fragile but first day of the season is a day where hope and expectation is always in abundance.

I think it will be an interesting barometer tomorrow, as both sides look evenly matched (although Villa look undoubtedly far more stable at present) in terms of quality and I don't believe we will be too far apart from each other come the end of the season.

Villa have had a good pre-season (faring better in their UEFA Cup game this week) and it appears that Gareth Barry is likely to remain at the club, which is a definite plus for them and Martin O'Neill has made some good additions over the past year to the squad which now has a very youthful feel to it, and you sense Villa are a side on the rise.

We do have a good record at Villa Park over the years, and I think it will be a game that starts of with a cagey approach as both sides feel each other out.

Team wise, we are of course missing captain Richard Dunne so I expect Michael Ball to come in at left back with Tal Ben Haim moving inside to partner Micah Richards.

What I would hope is that Valeri Bojinov is deemed fit enough to start, and whilst the 4-5-1 is not universally loved, given the problems we have in attack (and the need to involve Elano far more effectively) I would play Bojinov in a lone striker role - something he undoubtedly has the quality to do) with Sturridge dropping to the bench where I think he would currently add more value coming on as an impact player.

This would also allow us to beef up the midfield, which would hopefully see a return to form for Michael Johnson and ease the pressure on Martin Petrov - who was one of the rare bright lights on Thursday.

If we came away with all three points tomorrow it would be considered a surprise, but Mark Hughes will demand a reaction from the side and I think it is something we get and I predict us to come away with a point from a 1-1 draw.