Sports Mole takes a look at Aston Villa's chances for the upcoming season.
By Jack Prescott, Rugby Editor Filed: Monday, August 12, 2013 at 13:02 UK
Last Updated: Monday, August 12, 2013 at 13:09 UK
With the new Premier League season just around the corner, Sports Mole takes a look at Aston Villa's prospects.
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)
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)
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.
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.
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.