By Sunil Salh (@SunnySalh98)
2 of Bournemouth’s 3 new signings will miss the opening day fixture in the form of Joe Rothwell and Ryan Fredericks, the latter fondly remembered by Villa fans for his stamp on Grealish in the 2018 play-off final. New boy Marcus Tavernier should be in contention to make his debut for the home side.
Villa approach the opening day with a clean bill of health. Leon Bailey’s injury woes look to be behind him and for me has to be the first name on the team sheet after a storming pre-season. Ezri Konsa has made a superhuman recovery and will start alongside Carlos for me. The conundrum of the midfield trio is where the big decisions lie for Gerrard and despite some of the stunning displays Ramsey put in last season; I feel Gerrard will go with Luiz. With Villa looking to tie down the Brazilian to a new deal Gerrard will be looking to show him his importance to this side and in the 8 role with less defensive responsibility we could see a whole new side to Luiz. Personally I would love to see Buendia given a chance in the 8 role, his work rate off the ball means for me he would offer defensive support alongside his obvious attacking qualities. In games such as this where we are favourites and expected to boss possesion he could thrive. However I feel Gerrard currently sees him more of an impact and will stick with a more traditional trio in the middle of the park. New recruits Kamara and Carlos are certain to make their debuts and Watkins has the edge over Ings for me, at least for the moment.
We asked Bournemouth reporter, Daniel Davis for an insight of what to expect from the Cherries:
The mood at Bournemouth has flip-flopped remarkably in the space of just a couple of months. They have gone from riding high after their promotion to the Premier League to running head-first into a strange mix of frustration and nervous anticipation. As a result, the Cherries have already been written off by many sceptics, most of whom believe they will fall straight back into the Championship. Personally, I hope that isn’t the case. Staying up will be a superb achievement from Scott Parker and his players, especially considering how short they currently are on squad depth. Their opener against Aston Villa will be crucial in setting the tone for the season ahead. It promises to be a tricky encounter against a very well drilled side, and a stern test of their credentials in what is arguably the demanding league in the world. Villa have strengthened brilliantly in the market and Steven Gerrard will surely be inspiring his players to improve every day on the training field. They will aim to kick on from a lower mid-table place this year, and certainly have the resources to do just that. It’s great to have the football back, although, unfortunately, I believe it will be the visitors who get off to a winning start this weekend. Villa to win 2-1.
The contrasting feelings of these two clubs going into Saturdays 3:00pm KO couldn’t be more apparent. Scott Parker’s midweek comments of his side being “Way short of where we need to be” will have been music to the ears of Villa fans. Bournemouth do however have a good record in this fixture historically, winning 3 of the 4 previous Premier League meetings between the sides, and Villa will have to be wary having been stunned by newly promoted opposition on the opening day last season.
In a Bournemouth shirt Philip Billing is the big threat for me. A 6ft 4 attacking midfielder who racked up 10 goals and 10 assists last season for Bournemouth will have to be marshalled well by Kamara on his Premier League debut and will be a tricky physical battle for the Frenchman. Nevertheless, I am backing the Villa boys to get a result on Saturday with the catalyst for victory being Leon Bailey. Likely to come up against LB Jordan Zemura on what would be his Premier League debut, I really feel the Jamaican can explode into the new season and torment the youngster down the right. On paper this is probably the kindest fixture Villa could have asked for on the opening day and I am backing a 2-0 victory with Bailey and Watkins on the scoresheet.