PREVIEW by Amir Mir
Aston Villa begin life in the second tierfor the first time in 29 years when they take on Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday – and Roberto Di Matteo could field all four of his new signings.
Di Matteo has the task of rebuilding the club that picked up only three wins last season and attempt to gain instant promotion back to the top-flight.
The Italian is expected to favour the 4-2-3-1 formation he has been using for the majority of pre-season in Sunday’s clash at Hillsborough.
Di Matteo has four new acquisitions for the 46-game season in Ross McCormack, Aaron Tshibola, Pierluigi Gollini and Tommy Elphick.
Elphick has officially been named captain for the season, so he is expected to partner Nathan Baker at the heart of the club’s defence after Ciaran Clark’s £5.1 million transfer to Newcastle.
Another new debutant will be goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini who has been handed the number 1 jersey by the club, after Brad Guzan’s free transfer to Middlesbrough.
But it is Ross McCormack who the supporters will have their eye on as he will be aiming to start up front on Sunday, with the number 10 Jordan Ayew in behind.
Will Di Matteo take the risk and start McCormack straight away? And where will the versatile Ayew fit into the picture?
Academy graduates Jack Grealish, Andre Green and Gary Gardner will be pushing for a starting place after impressing during pre-season.
Gardner could partner Tshibola, 21 in midfield, with the experienced Ashley Westwood pushing them for a first-team place.
The notable absentee from the centre of the park will be Idrissa Gueye who made a switch to Premier League side Everton after they activated his £7.1 million realse clause.
Carlos Carvahal’s side narrowly missed out on promotion last season when they were beaten by Hull in the play-off finals.
The Yorkshire club have last seasons top-scorer Fernando Forestieri in their ranks, including new summer signing Steven Fletcher.
The last time these two met in the second-tier was in 1975, as both teams begin the season with huge expectations to their names.
In other Aston Villa team news, Di Matteo has delivered a transfer update on three senior players.