Aston Villa are back in the Premier League after three seasons away, but will their big summer spending ensure they beat the drop?
When we play them: November 2 (away); April 11 (home)
When Villa were relegated in 2016, it brought to an end their 29-year run in English football’s top flight.
One of just five English sides to have won the European Cup, they’re back and are spending big to stay in the Premier League.
Promotion was earned via the Championship playoffs last season, as boyhood supporter Dean Smith – who only took over in October 2018 – superbly led his side to the promised land.
While many of England’s clubs have been frugal in their spending this summer, Villa have been at the opposite end of the spectrum.
Smith’s men have gone big on bringing in a host of expensive individuals, from Man City youngster Douglas Luiz to exciting Club Brugge striker Wesley.
Gelling together the many new faces is going to be Smith’s biggest task, as well as making sure a slow start doesn’t leave them in early trouble.
On the face of it, Villa should have enough quality to escape the drop and push towards mid-table, but the Premier League has a funny way of showing up newcomers.
Notable ins: Frederic Guilbert, Bjorn Engels, Tyrone Mings, Matt Targett, Ezri Konsa, Douglas Luiz, Jota, Wesley, Trezeguet, Anwar El Ghazi, Tom Heaton
Notable outs: Micah Richards, Alan Hutton, Glenn Whelan, Mile Jedinak, Ross McCormack, Albert Adomah, Mark Bunn, Ritchie De Laet, Gary Gardner, Tommy Elphick
Best XI: Heaton; Guilbert, Engels, Mings, Targett; McGinn; Luiz, Grealish, Jota; Wesley, Trezeguet
We spoke to WhoScored’s Martin Laurence (@martinlaurence7) to hear about Villa’s spending and what to expect this season.
How optimistic are you about the new season?
A lot has understandably been made of Aston Villa’s summer spending but 13 senior (if not first team) players left at the end of the season and three have returned following loan spells.
Getting the new men in early gives me hope that we will have more time to bed them in and most have done well in pre-season, so I’m pretty optimistic.
If we can get three or four wins from the first two months I think it will stand us in good stead to have a decent first season back where Villa belong.
What are Aston Villa’s main objectives for 2019/20?
Survival. Anyone who says otherwise is naive, despite the spending.
It’s money that has been spent on young players to ensure we have a platform to re-establish ourselves as a part of the Premier League furniture.
That’s not to say I think we’re guaranteed to be in a scrap. With such a big turnaround in personnel the scope for where we could finish is huge.
Anywhere between 10th and 20th is a possibility, in what I think will be a very competitive Premier League this season.
Who’s your man to watch, and why?
Jack Grealish is the obvious one. He’s not an over-hyped Championship player but an England international in waiting.
For those unfamiliar with John McGinn, though, he’s a real throwback. Doesn’t look like a footballer, even in his playing/running style, but he’s everywhere on the pitch.
He is a central midfield James Milner that is adored by the fans just as ‘Milly’ has been wherever he has played.
Of the new signings, I think both Frederic Guilbert and Jota will prove to be bargains on the right.
* All rival supporter views taken before the end of the transfer window.
Away fans’ pubs: The Witton Arms on Witton Lane, near the roundabout.
How do you rate Liverpool’s chances ahead of the new season?
It will be impossible to top last season, in my opinion. To lose once and not win the league is ludicrous.
I’d still have Liverpool down as Man City‘s biggest challenger but I can’t see a title race going to the last day again.
I think/hope Naby Keita will have a bigger impact but there’s no doubting Liverpool were a little fortunate with injuries, particularly in attack, last season.
Who are you tipping to be our Player of the Year, and why?
There’s nothing better than seeing a local lad shine and if Trent Alexander-Arnold continues to improve at his current rate he’ll be the best right-back around before long.
He’s already up there, but if anyone is going to compete with Van Dijk for Liverpool’s Player of the Year I think it will be him.
TIA’s Aston Villa Predicted Finish: (Average of the TIA writers’ predictions) 14th
Where Martin says Aston Villa will finish: 14th
Where Martin says Liverpool will finish: 2nd
This is part of our club-by-club opposition previews this summer, getting the views of away fans on their club and their thoughts on LFC. Read them all here.