This is bound to be a tough match for us. We haven't won at Villa Park since that glorious cup win under Keegan in 1999. Last season we grabbed an excellent draw with Mortiz Volz scoring his first ever Fulham goal, and the season before we also drew 0-0, but every other Premier League fixture has resulted in a Villa win.
Villa are difficult to assess. They have only played two games so far, losing to Liverpool on the opening day (largely thanks to an extremely dubious free kick won by Steven Gerrard) and then put in an impressive performance to draw with Newcastle at St. James' Park last week. However, with only one point on the board, Villa will be clearly looking to take all three against us and we'll need to put in an almighty effort to avoid another loss. This is exactly the sort of game Sanchez needs to get something from we have to make ourselves difficult to beat if we are going to improve on Coleman's achievements.
Villa are likely to play 4-4-2 with John Carew defying his "dodgy knees" to partner the exciting Agbonlahor up front. Stilian Petrov and Nigel Reo-Coker will be the driving force in the middle of the park with Gareth Barry and Ashley Young providing the width. A back four of Bouma, Gardner, Laursen & Mellberg and Scott Carson in goal completes their likely starting eleven. I think Villa will look to play a similar style to us so the key areas will be that central midfield battle and our back line's ability to contain Agbonlahor. Steven Davis will be looking to impress on his return to the team he had played for since his youth, and he will need to work hard alongside Alexey Smertin if we're to come away with any points. Villa's weak point maybe young Craig Gardner, a 19 year old midfielder, who is filling in at right back. Villa have been fairly quiet in the summer transfer window and most Villa fans have a genuine right back at the top of their wish list.
Fulham will have to shuffle the side for the first time this term due to the McBride and Bouazza injuries. I have no idea how far away Lee Cook is from fitness but if he is unable to play I think we will probably see Clint Dempsey continue to fill in on that side. Despite a lot of speculation we have not been able to sign a big centre forward in time so I expect that Kamara will join Healy up front. Tony Warner gets the chance to make amends for his last two performances, but Kasey Keller will be on the bench and will surely be pushing hard for a spot if Niemi's injury is worse than first thought. The rest of the team is likely to stay the same as our first three matches. Hopefully Healy can continue his goal scoring streak and our defence can be robust enough to keep a clean sheet.