Newly promoted Bournemouth will take on an ambitious Aston Villa side in what could be an electric Premier League season opener for both sides at the Vitality Stadium.

Bournemouth will kick off their return to the Premier League by welcoming an ambitious Aston Villa side to the Vitality Stadium on Saturday.

It will be a throwback to the 2015/16 campaign when they welcomed the same opponents in what was their first ever Premier League game. Aston Villa came out on top that time but were relegated come to the end of the campaign. It is safe to say that Steven Gerrard’s crop have bigger fish to fry this season.

The Liverpool legend guided Villa away from the threat of relegation last season and earned them a respectable 14th-placed finish. Having been backed in the summer transfer window, they will now be expected to crack into the top ten and maybe even compete for a European spot.

A visit to the Vitality Stadium is no easy one, but Bournemouth, for all their success last season, are an inconsistent side. An unflattering summer transfer window alongside a pre-season that was unimpressive leaves the Cherries with much work to do if they are to avoid a relegation dogfight.

Both these teams have played each other just four times in the league. Villa won the first matchup in 2015, a clash that also happened to be Bournemouth’s first ever tie in the Premier League. The Cherries have held the upper hand since and have won all three league meetings thereafter. Whether this jynx will continue for Villa or Gerrard’s men will set the record right remains to be seen.

On paper, it should be a comfortable win for the visitors, but the opening day has given us several upsets over the years. It promises to be an intriguing game between two sides who on their day can turn on the style. The Hard Tackle looks at how both sides could line up on the might and what tactics they might employ.

Team News & Tactics


Scott Parker’s side did well last season but were inconsistent. The room for error is little in the Premier League, and he will need to ensure that the Cherries grab as many points as they can, especially at home. The Vitality Stadium will be pumped to receive a Villa side in what is their first top-flight fixture since 2020.

One advantage Bournemouth have is that they retain the core of the side that won them promotion, guaranteeing at the very least proper team chemistry. Whether this can help them trump a superior Villa side is the question.

Parker will be without Joe Rothwell, and Ryan Fredericks as both the summer signings are out injured. David Brooks is recovering well but is still some way away from returning onto the field. Bournemouth have an otherwise fully fit squad to choose from.

They are likely to be deployed in a 4-3-3 formation that can also revert to a 4-5-1 when not in possession. Mark Travers will start in goal behind a back four of Jordan Zemura, Lloyd Kelly, Chris Mepham and Jack Stacey.

The trio of Philip Billing, Jefferson Lerma and Lewis Cook will be tasked with winning the midfield battle and keeping the likes of Philippe Coutinho and John McGinn quiet. Doing so will cut off the service to Villa’s frontmen, making life easier for the home side’s defence.

Jaidon Anthony and Ryan Christie will start outside on either side of Dominic Solanke. The former Liverpool man has emerged as a reliable goalscorer for Bournemouth and recently penned a new deal. His directness could cause difficulties for Villa’s new boy Diego Carlos who is used to a different style of play in Spain.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Travers; Zemura, Kelly, Mepham, Stacey; Billing, Lerma, Cook; Anthony, Solanke, Christie


Aston Villa

The 2022/23 campaign is an exciting one for Villa. The club are coming off an excellent summer transfer window that saw them bring in Boubacar Kamara and Diego Carlos among others. They also signed Phillipe Coutinho permanently, and the Brazilian has much reason to impress given his poor spell at Barcelona.

Villa also have a new skipper in the form of John McGinn, who has been a mainstay in their midfield in recent seasons. Coming on the back of an excellent pre-season, there are plenty of reasons for fans to be excited.

Having done their business early, Gerrard will have had enough time to educate his new signings about the club’s style of play. Given that Carlos and Kamara will be playing in the Premier League for the first time, how well they can acclimatise to the nature of the game could decide their fortunes.

Apart from the injured Kortney Hause, Gerrard has a full-strength squad to choose from. He is likely to deploy his side in a flexible 4-3-2-1 formation. Emiliano Martinez will start in goal behind a back four of Lucas Digne, Carlos, Ezri Konsa and Matty Cash. Digne will have benefitted from a proper pre-season and Carlos replacing the error-prone Tyrone Mings will give the Villains more solidity in the rearguard.

Kamara is likely to start as the anchor man in midfield. The youngster impressed in Ligue 1 but will need to also show off his physical side to thrive in England. Him holding the fort will give the duo of John McGinn and Jacob Ramsey the freedom to bomb up the pitch.

The responsibility to craft opportunities for striker Ollie Watkins will fall onto Philippe Coutinho and Leon Bailey. Both players are capable of not just thriving centrally but also drifting out wide if necessary.

Probable Lineup (4-3-2-1): Martinez; Digne, Carlos, Konsa, Cash; Ramsey, Kamara, McGinn; Coutinho, Bailey; Watkins


Key Stats

  • The game is a throwback to Bournemouth’s first ever Premier League match when they faced off against Aston Villa in the 2015/16 season opener.
  • Both clubs have clashed against each other in the league four times. Bournemouth have come out on top thrice with Aston Villa winning just one.
  • Aston Villa have kicked off their Premier League campaign against a newly promoted team just five times so far. Of these, they have come out on top just once. This coincidentally was against Bournemouth in 2015.
  • Bournemouth and Aston Villa have faced each other nine times so far in all competitions. The Cherries have failed to keep a clean sheet in eight of those games. The last time they managed to do so was in 1971.
  • Aston Villa have won just one of their opening day games in the Premier League since gaining promotion to the top flight in 2019.

Player to Watch

Philippe Coutinho

The Brazilian star was among the best players in the Premier League during his time at Liverpool. The move to Barcelona largely destroyed his legacy in the game and relegated him to an expensive flop. Moving to Villa Park last January on loan was an inspired choice that saw him reunite with Gerrard. The Samba star is slowly yet steadily regaining his old swagger and was impressive for Villa last season.

With his transfer now made permanent, Coutinho has a chance to redeem his reputation and rekindle the flame of old. His vision and ability to find a pass could prove decisive for Aston Villa and open avenues for Ollie Watkins to get a sight of the goal.

The 30-year-old’s ability to orchestrate the attack and also have a pop at goal himself makes him a difficult player to keep quiet. Watkins and Coutinho have worked up a rather impressive bonhomie so far and would be something to watch out for. Unless Bournemouth are at the top of their game, there is every reason that the Samba star will make them dance to his tunes.


Bournemouth 1-2 Aston Villa

The atmosphere at the Vitality Stadium should be electric following Bournemouth’s return to the top flight. It will represent a true test for Aston Villa as they harbour bigger ambitions for the 2022/23 season.

Aston Villa’s squad have had a proper summer to gel and are on paper much superior to the Cherries. While the technical ability of some of their foreign recruits cannot be questioned, they could have to also rely on their physical prowess against what will be a determined Cherries side.

While it will be far from straightforward, Villa’s quality should make the difference on Saturday and give them a hard-fought win to kick off what could be a special season ahead.

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