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Aston Villa preview

It is a measure of our start this season that heading into this game - whilst a tough fixture - it is with a sense of expectation for the victory, rather than merely hoping to come away with the win.

Both sides (along with Tottenham and Everton) were installed as favourites at the start of the season for the Europa League places and to potentially challenge the top four. Whilst we have made undoubted progress since the end of 2008/09, it is fair to say Villa's has been less so.

Yet, this is perhaps a measure of quite how good a season they had last time around and it is easy to dismiss (with much focus on ourselves and Tottenham) the start they have had to the season following their opening day loss at home to Wigan as they have flown under the radar somewhat.

Both sides possess pace and attacking threat which could lend itself to a game featuring plenty of opportunities, but I see us having that extra quality in the key positions that can determine the outcome.

Both Stephen Ireland and Emmanuel Adebayor are again available, and whilst Adebyaor should slot straight back into the side I imagine Ireland will likely battle Shaun Wright-Phillips for the final midfield spot with Hughes probably lining up the 4-3-3 we have seen for the most part this season.

The game of course will see recently departed Richard Dunne face us. Whilst there was a hint of acrimony and one or two barbs fired when the transfer was completed there is no doubt Dunne will receive the reception he deserves for his time at the club. Conversely, Gareth Barry will line up against his former side and despite one or two pleas from his former team-mates, his reception is certain to be hotter than the one Dunne will receive.

Villa Park, historically, has been a happy hunting ground for us and there have been some notable victories down the years so we should travel in good spirit and know a win will see us make ground on some of the sides above us in the table.

Following a dearth of draws so far this season, the Premier League saw plenty this past weekend and most predictions appear to suggest the spoils will be shared this evening. Not me however, as I am in confident mood and take us to come away with the points with a 2-1 victory.

Game notes
  • We have won all five league matches this season when opening the scoring - the best record in the division.
  • Our return of five wins from their opening six games is their best start to a top flight season since 1961-62. They went on finish 12th that season.
  • Gabby Agbonlahor could become the first Villa player to score in five consecutive league matches since Paul Rideout in the 1984-85 season.
  • Villa have conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League this season (five).
  • Villa are attempting to keep a third successive clean sheet at home for the first time in two years.