Season preview: Aston Villa

Season preview: Aston Villa
© PA Photos
Sports Mole takes a look at Aston Villa's chances for the upcoming season.

With the new Premier League season just around the corner, Sports Mole takes a look at Aston Villa's prospects.

In:

Leandro Bacuna (FC Groningen, Undisclosed), Nicklas Helenius (Aalborg BK, £2m), Jores Okore (FC Nordsjaelland, £4m), Antonio Luna (Sevilla, Undisclosed), Aleksandar Tonev (Lech Poznan, Undisclosed), Jed Steer (Norwich City, Free)

Out:

Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest, Free), Jean Il Makoun (Rennes, Free), Derek Williams (Bristol City, Free), Andrew Marshall (Released), Stiliyan Petrov (Retired), Courtney Cameron (Torquay, Free) Richard Dunne (Queens Park Rangers, Free)

Last Season: 15th

Manager: Paul Lambert

Three key players:


Christian Benteke celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa on November 27, 2012© PA Photos
Christian Benteke - Arguably Villa's best bit of business in the summer transfer window was extending the Belgian striker's contract until 2017. The club's top scorer last season with 23 goals, Benteke was heavily linked with a move to Tottenham Hotspur before signing new terms. What is certain is that the 22-year-old will be key to where Villa will finish in the league table as his form during the previous campaign played a huge part in the team avoiding relegation.


Villa forward Andreas Weimann celebrates his equaliser against Arsenal on February 23, 2013© AP Photos
Andreas Weimann - The quicksilver Austrian was a vital member of the Villa squad last season, scoring 12 goals in all competitions. The 21-year-old also established a good partnership with Benteke, and manager Paul Lambert will be expecting more of the same this year. Weimann's strength lies in his pace and his canny knack of timing in the penalty area - something which is likely to continue causing defences plenty of trouble.


Stoke's Steven N'Zonzi is pulled back by Aston Villa's Ashley Westwood on December 8, 2012© PA Photos
Ashley Westwood - Villa have been keen to tie a number of their youngsters down to new deals this summer, including midfielder Westwood. The 23-year-old enjoyed a solid first season for the club, making the transition from League One side Crewe Alexandra with relative ease. He impressed many with his measured style in the middle of the park, but he's also more than capable of roughing it up when necessary.


First game: Arsenal (A), Complete fixture list

Sports Mole says: Aston Villa came mightily close to losing their top-flight status last season, but a strong run towards the end of the campaign steered them away from danger. Some decent arrivals over the summer should see them avoid a similar fate this time around, though a tough opening run of games could get them off to a bad start. However, a slightly more experienced squad is likely to see them right throughout, allowing them to improve on last term.

Predicted finish: 12th

Christian Benteke celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa on November 27, 2012
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3Cardiff CityCardiff9621148620
4Preston North EndPreston944193616
5Middlesbrough9432116515
6Ipswich TownIpswich85031411315
7Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd850386215
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9Sheffield WednesdaySheff Weds8341107313
10Aston Villa93421210213
11Queens Park RangersQPR93331212012
12Nottingham ForestNott'm Forest94051215-312
13Norwich CityNorwich9333812-412
14Fulham925298111
15Derby CountyDerby83231212011
16Millwall9243119210
17Hull City92341516-19
18Reading823378-19
19Burton Albion9234615-99
20Brentford91441012-27
21Barnsley8215913-47
22Sunderland9135814-66
23Birmingham CityBirmingham9126513-85
24Bolton WanderersBolton9027419-152
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