Aston Villa's relegation fight continues when Dean Smith's side take on Manchester United at Villa Park on Thursday, 9 July 2020.
Aston Villa were fortunate to claim a 2-2 draw when they visited Old Trafford earlier in the season (1 December 2019), but their current form doesn't indicate that they're capable of putting the same performance.
All in all, Villa have failed to beat Manchester United in their last 15 meetings – since a 1-0 win at Old Trafford in December 2009 – but The Red Devils have won 11 of the following games.
However, The Villans are still waiting for their first home win against Manchester United in the 21st century, with United winning 16 of their 21 matches at Villa Park over the past two decades.
Aston Villa Betting Preview
Villa's slump continues as the Birmingham outfit could relegate to the Championship if they don't suddenly improve and start winning. The Villans are yet to win since January and have lost eight of their last 10 matches in all competitions, drawing the other two.
Aston Villa will return on home soil after a 2-0 defeat away at recently-crowned Premier League champions Liverpool but losing at Anfield shouldn't be considered a tragedy nowadays.
Dean Smith's side resisted for more than three quarters of the match – 71 minutes – against Jurgen Klopp's selection before the quality of The Reds ultimately shone through, with second-half goals from Sadio Mane and youngster Curtis Jones condemning Villa to another defeat in their battle to avoid relegation. While they can certainly take some positives from their game at Anfield, the overall outlook is bleak.
As a result of their poor form over the past few months, Aston Villa are 18th in the Premier League table and with just five games left to play, they really don't have much time to react.
The Villans have won the majority of their points at home (18 out of 27) but after a goalless draw against Sheffield United in the opening game of Project Restart, Dean Smith's men have lost their last two home games to other two sides involved in the top four race – Chelsea and rivals Wolves.
Dean Smith's men are set for two important home matches within a few days as they'll welcome Crystal Palace just three days after the clash against Manchester United.
Dean Smith must choose his starting lineup without an injured quartet of Tom Heaton, Bjorn Engels, Matt Targett and Wesley, but midfielder Henri Lansbury and right-back Frederic Guilbert returned to the squad and the latter will be pushing for a start.
After a spirited display at Anfield on Sunday, changes are likely to be kept to a minimum, with Pepe Reina keeping his place between the sticks and Neil Taylor continuing to deputize for injured left-back Matt Targett.
Tyrone Mings and captain Jack Grealish both suffered injury scares against the champions but Dean Smith has played down both as being minor calf issues and the pivotal duo should be fit to play. Besides, there should be an extra motivation for the Aston Villa skipper to perform amid persistent speculation linking him with a move to Old Trafford.
Keinan Davis and Mbwana Samatta are competing for a starting spot up front and while the former is yet to score his first Premier League goal, winter signing Samatta will be hoping to score for the first time since he netted for Aston Villa's League Cup final defeat to Manchester City.
Manchester United Betting Preview
The Red Devils enjoyed a five-star triumph over another relegation-threatened side – Bournemouth – over the weekend and will be keen to extend their winning streak when they head to face Aston Villa.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side are unbeaten in sixteen games since a shock 2-0 home defeat to Burnley on 22 January, one day after Aston Villa's last league victory, winning 12 of them. Their superb form keeps them competitive on three different fronts as in addition to the Premier League top-four race, Manchester United also have opportunities to win two prestigious trophies – the FA Cup and the UEFA Europa League.
After a 1-1 draw at Tottenham Hotspur in their first match of Project Restart, Manchester United have won the following four games, including a 2-1 injury time victory at Norwich City in the FA Cup quarter-finals. They have scored 11 goals in their last three Premier League matches and youngster Mason Greenwood has bagged three goals in his last two league starts, meaning that the England teenager already has 8 goals in 26 Premier League appearances this season (starting in just seven of them).
Although his presence has been crucial, Marcus Rashford has converted a penalty kick to earn a 2-1 lead against Bournemouth, which was Rashford's first goal since he netted a brace for the 4-0 win over Norwich City on 11 January.
Anthony Martial is another Manchester United forward who seems to be brimming with confidence as the 24-years-old Frenchman scored a hat-trick for the 3-0 win against Sheffield United, which was Manchester United's first Premier League hat-trick since sir Alex Ferguson's retirement. Robin van Persie was the last Manchester United player to score a Premier League hat-trick and the Dutchman did it exactly against Aston Villa on 22 April 2013, en route of sealing the club's last Premier League title.
It seems that Bruno Fernandes was the missing element in United's cog as the Portugal midfielder has an unbelievable contribution to their improvement. Fernandes has been directly involved in 13 goals (7 goals and 6 assists) since he arrived at Old Trafford during the January transfer window and can boast four goals and two assists in his four Premier League starts after the break.
Victor Lindelof was replaced at half-time of Saturday's 5-2 victory over The Cherries, with the Sweden international forced off due to a back problem. However, Solskjaer revealed that Lindelof's issue was not serious, but if he's not fully fit Eric Bailly would partner Harry Maguire at the back in what would likely be the only rotation in Manchester United's starting lineup.
Centre-backs Axel Tuanzebe and Phil Jones have not featured since December and January, respectively, and latest reports suggest that the pair will likely be sidelined for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.
Meanwhile, experienced Serbian midfielder Nemanja Matic has just signed a new three-year contract with the 20-time champions of England and should partner Paul Pogba in Manchester United's midfield.
Possible Starting Lineups of Manchester United and Aston Villa
Manchester United: David De Gea – Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, Eric Bailly, Aaron Wan-Bissaka – Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic – Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood – Anthony Martial. (4-2-3-1)
Aston Villa: Pepe Reina – Ezri Konsa, Kortney Hause, Tyrone Mings, Neil Taylor – Anwar El Ghazi, John McGinn, Douglas Luiz, Trezeguet – Jack Grealish – Mbwana Samatta. (4-4-1-1)
Spooky Express Betting Prediction
Five of Aston Villa's seven Premier League victories this season have come at Villa Park and while their defending has been much improved since the Restart, they still have the worst defensive record in the English top-flight – conceding 62 goals.
Dean Smith could be pleased with his side's endeavor in a defeat at Merseyside that saw Villa muster more shots than Liverpool, restricting the champions to just six, but the lack of attacking quality made the difference once again.
Even though Aston Villa's improved defending could be trickier to break down than Manchester United's most recent opponents, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's free scoring side have the quality and have gained momentum that could be crucial on Thursday.
Also considering their away form (United are unbeaten in their last 10 away games across all competitions, winning seven of them), an anticipated victory for Manchester United at Villa Park on Thursday looks like a reasonable bet, but the hosts will try to make it difficult for The Red Devils, especially if Solskjaer has to rotate his defense, so we also expect both teams to score. However, United's attack will outscore Aston Villa – could be a 2-1 or 3-1 victory for the away side.