Aston Villa and Burnley clash in search of back-to-back wins
Aston Villa 1-1 Burnley
Aston Villa bounced back from four defeats in six matches to win impressively at the weekend, keeping alive a start to the season completely at odds to their league position at the end of the last campaign.
They also have two games in hand on most teams in the league, meaning that should they take maximum points from those they would move level with third-placed Leicester City.
Few expect Villa to finish that high come the end of the season, but it shows vast improvement nonetheless.
Burnley are a side also showing signs of improvement of late, following an unusually poor start to the season by their standards.
They have lingered within the relegation zone for all but three weeks of the season to date, but recent matches have been more like the Burnley of old, grinding sides down with a tough brand of football.
This could be a close match.
Form Guide (all comps): LWLLW
Reasons to be cheerful:
Could have Ross Barkley back after injury
Win against Wolves will have boosted confidence
Reasons to be fearful:
Four defeats from six shows early season form has disappeared
Burnley will be tough to beat
Aston Villa’s home form is a direct contrast to results gained from their travels of late.
Despite winning four of their last five matches away from Villa Park, they have suffered defeat in each of their last three home matches, conceding nine goals in those fixtures.
Manager Dean Smith also has a number of absentees to concern himself with, including regular starters Douglas Luiz and Matty Cash to suspension. Midfield driving force Ross Barkley could be fit to return after a hamstring injury, however.
Although their recent form has been less than ideal, Villa are still playing well – only the top five sides have scored more goals, with only Manchester City and Tottenham conceding fewer.
Their games in hand could take them back near the top of the table – they spent four weeks 4th or higher at the start of the season. That should prove as motivation here.
Star Man – Jack Grealish
Games against Burnley can be tight affairs – Grealish is one of those players who can help unlock the door.
Form Guide (all comps): DWLDW
Reasons to be cheerful
Eight points from five matches is improved form
Six away victories in 2020 is their best since 1965
Reasons to be fearful
Aston Villa have the potential to cause problems
Second-lowest goals scored in the league
Burnley are suddenly looking like a Sean Dyche team again.
They have never been the biggest scorers, though second-lowest so far this season is perhaps a little concerning for the Burnley manager, but usually their defence has been much tighter.
As he so often does, Dyche has worked wonders with the players at his disposal to lift the mood at the club and get them playing good, solid football once again. The win away to Arsenal at the weekend will have particularly pleased him.
That being said, a defeat here would be the 7th of the season and could perhaps see them drop back into the relegation zone if other results go against them.
In terms of team news, Burnley are likely to name an unchanged side to the one that beat Arsenal, with no new injury concerns.
Star Man – James Tarkowski
Has been terrific at the back of late for Burnley, putting in a man of the match display against Arsenal
A tight match that could be settled on a moment of quality
Barkley will be a welcome return for Villa
Burnley have their mojo back
Burnley have got their confidence back, and when that happens it very rare they get beaten easily.
Aston Villa have the quality to unpick teams, but there is something about Burnley that says they may go on a good run over the Christmas period. A point could be shared here.
Aston Villa 1-1 Burnley