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Preview: Aston Villa vs. Manchester United - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Thursday's Premier League clash between Aston Villa and Manchester United, including team news and predicted lineups.

Manchester United will be looking to further their charge for a top-four finish when they lock horns with relegation-threatened Aston Villa at Villa Park on Thursday.

Villa, meanwhile, are one point adrift of safety before Watford take on Norwich City on Tuesday evening, and Dean Smith's men are still searching for their first win since January.

Match preview

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith pictured on June 27, 2020© Reuters

Facing the recently-crowned Premier League champions on their own turf is a daunting enough task in itself, and Villa fans must have been expecting an onslaught from Liverpool as they looked to avenge their 4-0 drubbing to Manchester City only a few days before.

However, Smith's men held out for 71 minutes against the Reds before the quality of Jurgen Klopp's men ultimately shone through, with second-half goals from Sadio Mane and Curtis Jones condemning Villa to yet another defeat in their battle to avoid the drop.

While Villa can certainly take the positives from their game at Anfield, the overall outlook is bleak. Smith's side are now winless in their last 10 in all competitions and have not triumphed in the Premier League since their 2-1 victory over Watford three weeks into the new year.

Villa have no doubt been handed one of the most taxing fixture lists since the restart having faced European-chasing sides in Sheffield United, Chelsea, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Liverpool since the top flight was allowed to resume, and the relegation candidates still have to face Everton and Arsenal after their showdown with Man United.

Five of Villa's seven league wins this season have come on familiar territory, and there should be an extra motivation for Jack Grealish to perform amid persistent speculation linking the Villa captain with a move to Old Trafford.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pictured on June 24, 2020© Reuters

Meanwhile, United's push for a Champions League berth continues to go from strength to strength as they put five goals past a struggling Bournemouth side on Saturday.

The Red Devils were given an early scare when Junior Stanislas rifled in the opener after just 15 minutes, but the remarkable talent of United's front four soon prevailed as Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Anthony Martial put Bournemouth to the sword soon after.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men stretched their unbeaten run across all competitions to 16 games with victory over the Cherries, and United will now endeavour to win their fourth league game in a row when they travel to the West Midlands.

As things stand, the Red Devils currently lie fifth on 55 points - two adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea, who take on Crystal Palace on Tuesday, and the United faithful will certainly be rooting for Palace to take at least take a point off the Blues in the London derby.

A victory for United at Villa Park on Thursday will stretch their unbeaten run on the road to 11 games in all competitions, and the Red Devils have only shipped four goals away from home in that time.

However, Villa managed to salvage a draw in the reverse fixture as the sides played out a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford back in December.

Aston Villa Premier League form: LDLDLL

Manchester United Premier League form: DWDWWW
Manchester United form (all competitions): WDWWWW

Team News

Manchester United defender Victor Lindelof pictured in February 2020© Reuters

Villa will continue to make do without long-term absentees Wesley and Tom Heaton, and Matt Targett is also unavailable, but the defender could be back in time for the weekend meeting with Palace.

Grealish and Tyrone Mings both suffered injury scares last time out but the pair should make the starting lineup for this one, and Smith may opt against making any changes at all to the side that gave Liverpool a good run for their money.

That would mean another start for veteran goalkeeper Pepe Reina, who was given a run out against his former club at the weekend, although Bjorn Engels is a doubt with an Achilles issue.

Having had a few days off to recover from their thrashing of Bournemouth, United are expected to announce an unchanged lineup once again.

Victor Lindelof was forced off at half time at the weekend following a back complaint, although the defender's injury is not thought to be serious and he should continue to partner Harry Maguire at centre-back.

Axel Tuanzebe and Phil Jones may not feature again before the end of the current campaign, but it is difficult to see any member of this United side dropping out given their current form.

Aston Villa possible starting lineup:
Reina; Konsa, Hause, Mings, Taylor; El Ghazi, Luiz, McGinn, Trezeguet; Grealish; Davis

Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Lindelof, Shaw; Pogba, Matic; Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford; Martial

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We say: Aston Villa 1-3 Manchester United

United's attacking stars have been in prolific form since the English top flight returned to action, and the Red Devils are now facing a Villa side with the worst defensive record in the league. Smith's side should feel capable of making it a difficult evening for the United backline, but we are expecting Solskjaer's men to continue their excellent run of form with a routine victory at Villa Park.

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