Manager: Paul Lambert.
Captain: Ron Vlaar.
Stadium: Villa Park (43,786).
Last season: 15th.
Leading scorer (PL): Christian Benteke (19).
Odds: Title 2000-1. Relegation 5-1.
In: Leandro Bacuna (FC Groningen, £880,000), Nicklas Helenius (Aalborg, £1.2M), Antonio Luna (Sevilla, £1.7M), Jores Okore (FC Nordsjaelland, £4.1M), Jed Steer (Norwich City, Free), Aleksandar Tonev (Lech Poznan, £2.8M).
Out: Calum Barrett (Released), Josh Barton (Released), Courtney Cameron (Released), Simon Dawkins (Released), Richard Dunne (Queens Park Rangers, Free), Brett Holman (Al-Nasr, Free), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest, Free), Andy Marshall (Released), Jean II Makoun (Rennes, £2.6M), Derek Williams (Bristol City, Free).
Christian Benteke – The Big Belgian was the key to Aston Villa survival in the Premier League last season by scoring 19 goals, which brought the attention of bigger clubs, but the striker (after much consideration) has decided to stay at Villa Park after signing a new four-year deal. The news that the powerful striker is staying will surely be music to the supporters ears, given his prowess up front. He will be once again be Villa’s main threat in front of goal, and he will need to be in top form if Aston Villa are to challenge for a top ten finish this season.
Youngster to watch out for
Gary Gardner – The 20-year-old is one of the brightest prospects coming out of Aston Villa’s youth academy which has produced so many talented players in the past. The younger brother of Sunderland’s Craig Gardner has always been touted as “better” than his older brother. He made his debut as a late substitute in Villa’s brilliant 3-1 triumph at Chelsea on New Year’s Eve 2011, but since has been very lucky with injuries. He is fit again and ready to make an impact this season. Expect to see a lot of him this year with Lambert showing faith in his young players.
Team (4-3-3): Brad Guzan – Matthew Lowton, Ron Vlaar, Jores Okore, Joe Bennett – Yacouba Sylla, Ashley Westwood, Fabian Delph – Andreas Weimann, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Christian Benteke.
17th-Aug – Arsenal (A)
21st-Aug – Chelsea (A)
24th-Aug – Liverpool (H)
14th-Sep – Newcastle United (A)
21st-Sep – Norwich City (A)
There is no doubt, retaining Benteke for at least another season will be a huge boost for Lambert and everyone at Aston Villa. They have also made some quality signings during the summer, but they have a very tricky start to the season and will be hoping they don’t get caught up at the wrong end of the table early on. I can see Villa starting to gel as a team and given time, Lambert could build a strong Villa side that could even play in Europe. That won’t happen this season, but expect them to make small steps in the right direction. A mid-table finish for me and a good cup run.