Preview: Aston Villa vs. Lazio – prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Thursday’s friendly clash between Aston Villa and Lazio, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Returning to the Midlands following their pre-season trip to the United States, Aston Villa play Lazio at Walsall’s Bescot Stadium on Thursday.

After competing in the Premier League Summer Series, Villa are finalising preparations for the new league season and a Europa Conference League playoff; meanwhile, their Italian counterparts will soon return to the Champions League.

Match preview

Aston Villa manager Unai Emery reacts on July 15, 2023© Reuters

In a goal-packed tournament which ended with a second place finish behind inaugural winners Chelsea, Aston Villa completed the Premier League’s new Summer Series with two 3-3 draws and a win.

While Stateside, Villa played out six-goal thrillers against both Newcastle United and Brentford, with a 2-0 success against Fulham sandwiched between.

Sunday’s clash with the Bees in Maryland saw new club-record signing Moussa Diaby continue to make an impact, as the French forward scored his second goal in two friendly appearances to put the Villans 2-1 up against their top-flight rivals.

Matty Cash and ex-Brentford defender Ezri Konsa were both on the scoresheet too – the latter netting a stunning solo goal against his former club – as Unai Emery‘s side eventually settled for an eventful draw at FedEx Field.

Remaining unbeaten throughout pre-season so far – having returned to action with a 1-1 draw against near neighbours Walsall – Villa will also visit Valencia this weekend, ahead of their Premier League opener at Newcastle on August 12.

First, though, they return to Bescot Stadium, where Emery’s preparations for an upcoming Europa Conference League playoff continue against continental opposition.

After the Basque coach’s arrival in mid-season, Villa stormed up the standings to finish seventh at the end of their 2022-23 campaign, so they now eagerly await next week’s draw ahead of a much-anticipated European return.

Lazio's Ciro Immobile celebrates scoring their first goal on May 12, 2023© Reuters

While Lazio were no strangers to UEFA competition as Aston Villa toiled in both the Premier League and Championship over the past decade, it has been three years since the Rome club last reached the Champions League, which they will return to this autumn after last term’s top-four Serie A finish.

The Biancocelesti sewed up second place in the standings by beating Empoli in their final fixture of the 2022-23 season, to finish ‘best of the rest’ behind Scudetto-winners Napoli.

Posting a total of 74 points to sit above outgoing champions Milan, city rivals Roma and Champions League finalists Inter, Lazio recorded their second-best tally in a top-flight campaign.

Partly due to a new-found propensity for keeping clean sheets, Maurizio Sarri‘s men notably won 37 of those points on the road, as an injury-scarred season for captain and all-time top scorer Ciro Immobile was covered for by contributions from Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (nine goals), Felipe Anderson (also nine) and Mattia Zaccagni (10).

It seems ‘Sarrisimo’ is truly taking hold in Rome, but a familiar face has been missing from the squad during a pre-season schedule featuring successive wins over Primorje, Triestina and Slovenian minnows NK Bravo.

Lazio’s midfield general was among those heading to Saudi Arabia this summer on lucrative contracts, so after several years of service, Milinkovic-Savic will be absent on Thursday and for their Serie A opener at Lecce’s Via Del Mare.

Aston Villa friendly form:

Lazio friendly form:

Aston Villa's Jacob Ramsey celebrates scoring their first goal with Leon Bailey on May 13, 2023© Reuters

After Aston Villa trialled a three-man defence against Brentford, they may revert to type on Thursday evening, which would mean either Matty Cash or Ezri Konsa – both goalscorers last time out – would most likely drop to the bench.

In addition to new recruits Moussa Diaby, Youri Tielemans and Pau Torres, Villa boss Unai Emery welcomed back Jamaica international Leon Bailey last week, after the winger had been given time off following the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Last term’s top scorer Ollie Watkins or Cameron Archer, who is back in the squad following an impressive loan spell at Middlesbrough, should start up front, with Diaby set to provide support; Jaden Philogene has played a regular part in pre-season so far and may feature as well.

Local lads Aaron Ramsey and Jacob Ramsey remain unavailable due to injury, while Bertrand Traore, Alex Moreno and Colombian striker Jhon Duran all miss out once again.

Lazio, meanwhile, have brought in Valentin Castellanos as their headline signing this summer, and the Argentinian could make another appearance after replacing Ciro Immobile in last week’s win over Bravo. He could, though, be saved for Sunday’s game against former club Girona.

In Maurizio Sarri’s tried and trusted 4-3-3 formation, either Felipe Anderson or Pedro should start on the right wing, as part of a familiar attacking trident also featuring Immobile and Mattia Zaccagni.

With Sergej Milinkovic-Savic now departed, the Biancocelesti must compensate for the absence of a player directly involved in more Serie A strikes than any other midfielder last season (17 – nine goals and eight assists). As no direct replacement has been acquired yet, Matias Vecino, Danilo Cataldi and Luis Alberto are set to man the visitors’ engine room.

Fellow midfielder Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro – who spent last year on loan at Empoli – is sidelined by injury, having recently picked up an ankle problem.

Aston Villa possible starting lineup:
Martinez; Konsa, Carlos, Torres, Digne; Luiz, Tielemans; Buendia, McGinn, Diaby; Watkins

Lazio possible starting lineup:
Provedel; Lazzari, Casale, Romagnoli, Marusic; Vecino, Cataldi, Alberto; Anderson, Immobile, Zaccagni

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We say: Aston Villa 2-2 Lazio

Aston Villa’s pre-season has been goal-laden and full of incident, as several exciting new signings settle in to a team that finished last term like an express train. While Lazio boasted one of Europe’s best defensive records for much of 2022-23, they will be unpicked at least once by Villa’s pace and variety – but they have plenty of craft in their own ranks and Sarri’s sides are always admired for their organisation.

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