Aston Villa vs Southampton predictions: Gerrard's side to earn a share of the points
After beating Southampton 4-0 last season, Aston Villa will hope to kick-start their 2022-23 campaign when the two teams meet again at Villa Park on Friday.
All was rosy for Villa back last season, as Philippe Coutinho and Ollie Watkins were flying, and the Claret and Blues were on a run of three impressive wins to nil as they enjoyed a belated bounce under new manager Steven Gerrard.
However, things look rather different now, with Villa taking just four points from their opening six games of 2022-23. On the balance of play, they have arguably been lucky to gain that many.
Another swashbuckling success against Southampton would be the ideal antidote to a stuttering campaign. Still, the Saints are capable of far better performances than the one delivered in March and Ralph Hasenhuttl's young side will be eager to gain revenge for their springtime humiliation.
Centre-back Diego Carlos remains sidelined after rupturing his Achilles tendon in Aston Villa's second game of the season, while his deadline day loan replacement, Jan Bednarek, cannot face his parent club.
Matty Cash lasted only 30 minutes against Manchester City a fortnight ago, and the Villa right-back is not expected to return from that hamstring injury until early October. Ralph Hasenhuttl has only two Southampton players absent, with Romeo Lavia and Tino Livramento unavailable.
Midfielder Lavia was forced off against Chelsea with a hamstring injury at the end of August and is expected to be out for around five more weeks, while Livramento is a few months away as he recovers from a cruciate ligament injury sustained in April.
Before losing 4-0 at Villa Park in March, Southampton had not lost on any of their six trips, winning the last three 4-3, 3-1 and 4-2.
In fact, Saints have won nine of the last 15 meetings in the league and cup while Villa have won only three, with three draws.
Villa's current form will also be a concern for Gerrard, with his side losing four of their six Premier League games this season, including defeats in trips to Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Arsenal.
However, their form at Villa Park is a little less of a worry. Gerrard's men beat Everton in their first home game of the new season, while they were slightly unfortunate to lose 1-0 to West Ham before they then rallied to draw 1-1 with Manchester City.
Last season's emphatic home win was very out keeping from recent head-to-heads between Villa and Southampton, and the visitors will be confident of a result at one of their happier hunting grounds.
Hasenhuttl's side is better-drilled and more cohesive than Gerrard's, but Southampton are prone to letting opponents off the hook with poor finishing and individual errors.
That erratic nature was on show in Saints' recent defeats to Wolves and Manchester United.
Villa's performance against Manchester City last time out has been overhyped, with the focus on whether they were wrongly denied a winner distorting the reading of a game that the Citizens should have put to bed long before Gerrard's men equalised.
That said, it is true that Villa showed plenty of character in not folding to a clearly superior team, and while the hosts may not be able to provide the elegance and dynamism that saw off Southampton in March, they should display enough grit to earn a point.