Match Preview: Aston Villa (h)By: Sam | August 12th, 2011
Fulham’s domestic campaign starts tomorrow. Up first is Aston Villa who are an unknown quantity with a new manager in Alex McLeish. He may introduce the defensive tactics that made his previous employers Birmingham City a tough unit to score against. Although, they were unable to actually score themselves, which contributed to their relegation.
But at Aston Villa McLeish has found, and bought one, pacey attacking players in Gabriel Agbonlahor, Marc Albrighton and Charles N’Zogbia. And to benefit from these quick attackers is Darren Bent up front. Last season Bent and playmaker Ashley Young could at times link up superbly. But the latter has moved on to Manchester United, so will Bent be as prolific without him or can another playmaker like N’Zogbia fill the boots of Young?
With six competitive games already played in the Europa League, Fulham’s first touch of the ball and fitness levels will presumably be better than Aston Villa’s. From these games in Europa League we have also seen glimpses of how Fulham are playing under Martin Jol. He seems to be putting his trust in a Zamora-Johnson strike partnership, which hasn’t been prolific but has been productive at times.
Jol has been decreasing the average age of an aging Fulham squad after buying some young players. Two summer signings that could be playing their Premier League debuts are Marcel Gecov and Pajtim Kasami. The midfielders look to have great potential after playing in the U-21s European Championship with Czech Republic and Switzerland respectively. Two teams that were very impressive in the tournament.
It all starts tomorrow then. Another test for the Fulham sqaud to cope with a long Europa League run and a domestic campaign. With an experienced European manager in Martin Jol and with a team that is almost the same as the one that reached the Europa League final, expectations are, although they may not repeat a progression to the final, that Fulham make a good account of themselves in both tournaments.
Schwarzer, Baird, Hughes, Hangeland, Riise, Duff, Murphy, Etuhu, Dempsey, Johnson, Zamora
Aston Villa XI
Given, Young, Dunne, Collins, Warnock, Albrighton, Petrov, Bannan, N’Zogbia, Heskey, Bent