Burnley-Aston Villa Preview
A pair of clubs looking to build momentum off solid victories meet at Villa Park on Saturday when promoted Aston Villa host Burnley.
The Villans (1-1-4) eased some of the sting of their 3-2 loss to 10-man Arsenal over the weekend by putting together a second strong Carabao Cup performance Wednesday in winning 3-1 at Brighton and Hove Albion. Dean Smith made nine changes to the side that twice squandered leads to the Gunners and got the response he wanted as Jota and Connor Hourihane scored goals 11 minutes in apart in the first half.
After Brighton closed within a goal, substitute Jack Grealish restored the two-goal cushion on 77 minutes as Aston Villa were put opposite Wolverhampton at home next month in the round of 16. Villa have not won the League Cup since 1996, but with Chelsea and Manchester United facing off as well as fellow Big Six sides Liverpool and Arsenal, a path could emerge with a favourable draw.
"We've got a proud history in this competition, as we have in most. We've won it five times, alongside the FA Cup seven times. Let's keep trying to add to that tally," Smith told Villa's official website. "You saw the number of fans that came down tonight - almost 3,000 - and their wishes need to be respected as well.
"We're fighting on multiple fronts this season and will try and do well in all of them. We want our fans to be happy."
Grealish continues to be the linchpin for almost all success Villa have this term. The 24-year-old is tied for the team lead with two goals in all competitions and is the only player with two assists. The Villans also have posted back-to-back clean sheets at home in league play after opening the season with a 2-1 defeat in the Midlands to Bournemouth.
Burnley (2-2-2) have no cup responsibilities after being bounced in the third round last month by League One side Sunderland, but Sean Dyche's side snapped a five-match winless spell in all competitions (0-2-3) with a first-class effort in defeating promoted side Norwich City 2-0 last weekend.
Chris Wood had a brace in the first quarter-hour of the match to open his account for the season, scoring his goals four minutes apart, and the Clarets became just the second side to prevent rampaging Finnish striker Teemu Pukki from scoring, keeping him on six goals.
Wood, who joined Burnley in 2017 after scoring 27 goals for Leeds United in the Championship the previous season, has yet to truly make his mark for the Clarets. The New Zealand international has 22 goals in 68 league matches and admitted to some relief in scoring for the first time since April.
"It was nice to get on the score sheet and even better to get the three points," Wood told Burnley's official website. "It's been a little time coming but it's nice to be off the mark and rolling. I backed myself that they would come. I knew that it was hopefully only a matter of time.
"You want to get off the mark but as a striker you know the next chance is around the corner so you can't get too dis-heartened or too down. You've just to make sure you're ready for when they do fall so you can stick them in the back of the net."
Wood has been eerily consistent with his goals, totaling 11 in 34 matches both home and away. But his effort was part of a solid team-wide performance as Burnley limited the Canaries to two shots on target. There was more good news during the week as Iceland international and wide midfielder Johann Berg Gudmundsson has been cleared to play after missing the last three matches with a calf injury.
Gudmundsson joines Aaron Lennon, Robbie Brady, and Dwight McNeil in contention for spots out wide, and Dyche is happy to have this selection headache as he tries to construct his best XI.
"I think all of the wide players have different qualities - and I'm going to include Jeff (Hendrick) as a fifth because he's so good operating in different positions," Dyche said. "We want that mixture of qualities they bring. I think the four main wide players all offer something different and I think that's a good weapon for us - whether they start or whether they come off the bench."
The club last crossed paths in the top flight in 2014-15, when Burnley took four points off Villa despite being relegated at season's end. The Clarets recorded a 1-0 victory late that season when Ashley Barnes set up Danny Ings' sixth-minute goal.
Updated September 26, 2019