Verdict: Aston Villa
Best Odds: 1/1
Aston Villa and Hull City’s late afternoon clash on Saturday raise the curtain on the first matchday of the new Championship season that will see both rivals get engaged in a chase to get back to the Premier League.
One of most recognisable English teams Aston Villa failed to achieve Premier league promotion last season and this object has been set as absolute paramount for the forthcoming 2017/18 campaign. The club spared no money in the transfer window, although it placed focus on chunky salaries instead of big money moves. Midfielders Carlos Sanchez and Jordan Veretout both moved to Fiorentina in a combined €10 million transfer, but the club did well to bring five new players to Villa Park. Chelsea legend John Terry stands as the most prominent signing of them all, leading the line in front of Stoke City midfielder Glenn Whelan, Hull City star Ahmed Elmohamady and Manchester United keeper Sam Johnstone. Aston Villa also signed defender Christopher Samba who joined club on a free transfer. Manager Steve Bruce is set to ring several changes in his approach as he looks set to go with a four-man defence line instead of three he flirted with throughout last campaign. The 4-4-1-1 seems to be his preferred option if preseason is to be assessed with Jack Grealish looking as the favourite to spearhead the attack.
Steve Bruce is counting on Jack Grealish to shine this season, but the striker will still miss the opening match through injury.
Gaby Agbonlahor is expected to start the match at the expense of Scott Hogan, who has been pushing for a starting berth during preseason.
It’s always difficult to start your life in a new surroundings and Hull City are no exemption as they prepare for a season in the Championship under the utterly underwhelming campaign in the top flight. The Tigers have big ambitions for the 2017/18 season and the arrival of high-profile manager Leonid Slutsky is here to confirm it. Russian tactician is not the only new face at the club as Hull City have seen multiple ins and outs during the summer transfer window thus far. Goalkeeper Callum Burton joined the club from Shrewsbury Town, whereas the Tigers added Sparta Prague defender Ondrej Mazuch as well. Versatile Liverpool defender Kevin Steward is the most notable addition thus far, whereas free agent Liam Edwards also joined Tigers together with Chelsea defender Michael Hector and Fraizer Campbell who returns to the club. Leonid Slutsky’s men have had a mixed preseason which saw them beat the likes of Bristol Rovers and Benfica, while the Tigers also got engaged in entertaining draws with Nice and Ajax. Slutsky admits his side are not 1005 ready for the trip to Villa Park, but the Tigers will nevertheless give their best to kick off the new campaign the best way possible.
Former Manchester United forward Will Keane is not expected to return until November due to his cruciate ligament injury.
Ryan Mason is sidelined with a skull fracture, whereas Greg Luer’s knee injury is likely to keep him out of action until the end of August.
Key Factors to Consider
- Both sides lost only one of their preseason matches
- Hull City won only once in last 10 matches against Aston Villa
- Villans kept a clean sheet in their last 4 matches
- Tigers managed a single clean sheet in their last 8 games
- Hull City won only one of their last 19 away matches
Hull City travel to Villa Park looking to end a disappointing away run, but that will be easier said than done against a motivated side that is looking to kick off the new season on a high. The Villans are hoping this will be their season after missing out on the Premier League berth last term and they will spare no punches against the newly relegated top-flight side.
Verdict: Aston Villa
Best Odds: 1/1
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