Unai Emery has had quite the impact at Aston Villa, taking the team from the bottom half to the midst of a battle for European football. This weekend, the Villains face Nottingham Forest who have just committed to manager Steve Cooper, despite sitting just one point above the relegation zone.
It’s been a disappointing few days for Nottingham Forest, who came out with just a single point from two must win games against Wolves and Leeds. The Reds now travel to Villa Park for the first of five difficult fixtures, where another defeat could see them fall into the bottom three.
Emery has overseen a remarkable turnaround at Aston Villa, with his side on the cusp of European Football after three consecutive wins. There is work still left to be done with a difficult run of games coming after their encounter against Forest this weekend – a fantastic opportunity for Villa to close the gap on the top six
WHEN & WHERE?
Where: Villa Park, Birmingham.
When: Saturday 7th April 2023.
Time: 15:00 GMT.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.
Assistants: Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn.
Fourth official: Thomas Bramall.
VAR: Simon Hooper.
Assistant VAR: Matthew Wilkes.
The hosts could still be without Boubacar Kamara who missed midweek win against Leicester after picking up a knee injury at Stamford Bridge. Former Forest player Matty Cash is out injured, as is Philippe Coutinho.
It’s yet another injury for Nottingham Forest. This time, Emmanuel Dennis – who had just found form in the Garibaldi – is now an injury doubt. Ryan Yates and Serge Aurier are also in doubt to appear on Saturday; as are Scott Mckenna and Wily Boly, although the defensive duo are both nearing a return to action after being in the treatment room since February’s defeat at Fulham.
Aston Villa have hit a purple patch in recent weeks, a trend they will hope to continue this weekend. It’s now six games unbeaten for Emery’s side, a streak that has seen them concede just twice since the middle of February. The Villains have been incredibly defensive as of lot, largely due to the up-turn in form for Tyrone Mings who has established himself as a key figure under his new manager.
Playing in an attacking-focused, 4-4-2, Emery seems to have found a system which gets the best out of his attacking talent. An issue his predecessor used to have, Emery has managed to get Ollie Watkins and Emi Buendia firing on all cylinders, with both looking like a threat going forward.
The rest of the Villa midfield could also be a threat to Navas in the Forest net. In recent fixtures, John McGinn, Jacob Ramsey, Douglas Luiz and Bertrand Traore have all been on the scoresheet whilst playing in midfield. Against Leeds, Forest were easily dismantled by Luis Sinisterra and Jack Harrison who tore past defenders with ease. Looking at the quality and the form of Villa’s attacking players, it doesn’t look like Forest will be able to keep them out for the full 90 minutes – not without a drastic change in form.
Nottingham Forest seems to have somewhat of a feel-good feeling back after Maranakis confirmed Steve Cooper has his full support – settling the nerves of many fans. Will it be enough to change their fortunes on the pitch? Maybe not, but with a difficult run of games to come, it certainly has lifted the mood of many fans and players.
Aston Villa – Ollie Watkins
No surprises here. Villa’s form man has been incredible in recent weeks, scoring in eight of his last 10 Premier League matches. Forest’s backline is leaky, and if an attacker is in the right form, they tend to take advantage of it. Ings, Kane, Isak and Harrison have all found the back of the net against the Reds and Watkins will try and do the same this weekend. Given his impressive performances against better opposition, you’ll fancy him to be a handful.
Nottingham Forest – Brennan Johnson
Whatever happens to Forest this season, it’s likely that Brennan Johnson will remain a Premier League football – the Welshman just oozes quality. When Forest struggle to get Johnson on the ball, they often fail to offer anything in an attacking sense – exactly what happened midweek against Leeds United.
Villa are prone to attackers being played through their backline; Chelsea had a couple of great chances played through, Bournemouth to and Harvey Barnes’ goal for Leicester came because he was able to get in behind Ashley Young. Johnson is one of the best at getting in behind and is excellent at carrying the ball beyond defenders. With Forest sitting back to absorb the Villa attack, he’s likely to get many opportunities on the counter – will he take them?
Aston Villa predicted lineup vs Nottingham Forest: Martinez, Moreno, Mings, Konsa, Young, Buendia, Luiz, McGinn, Ramsey, Watkins, Bailey.
Nottingham Forest predicted lineup vs Aston Villa: Navas, Lodi, Felipe, Niakhate, Aurier, Mangala, Danilo, Freuler, Gibbs-White, Awoniyi, Johnson.