Preview: Burton Albion vs. Aston Villa - prediction, team news, lineups
Aston Villa belatedly get their 2020-21 campaign up and running on Tuesday evening with an EFL Cup second-round tie against Burton Albion.
The Villans reached the final of last season's competition and head into this game against third-tier opponents Burton as strong favourites to advance.
Villa were supposed to begin their new Premier League season with a trip to Manchester City on Saturday, but that game was called off due to their opponents' 2019-20 European commitments running into August.
This trip to an empty Pirelli Stadium will provide Dean Smith with a first chance to see his side in competitive action this season, then, and it may well be a case of the visitors fielding a strong lineup for their first game back.
Since narrowly avoiding relegation from the top flight last season, the West Midlands outfit have since brought in Ollie Watkins and Matty Cash, undoubtedly strengthening their squad in the process.
The club-record signing of Watkins, last season's Championship joint-top scorer, coupled with Jack Grealish seemingly staying put for another season, stands Villa in good stead ahead of this new season.
Villa have enjoyed a positive pre-season programme, too, seeing off Wycombe Wanderers 5-2 in their opening friendly before beating Manchester United 1-0 in Saturday's behind-closed-doors clash - Watkins netting the only goal in that one.
The EFL Cup brought plenty of joy to Villa fans last season, of course, with the club making it all the way to the final, where they were soundly beaten by Manchester City at Wembley.
Burton have also enjoyed a deep run in the competition recently, making it all the way to the semi-finals in the 2018-19 campaign, where they succumbed to a slender 1-0 loss at the hands of Pep Guardiola's City.
The Brewers were knocked out by Leicester City in the last 16 last season, but they have eliminated a Premier League side in each of the last two seasons - Burnley in 2018-19 and Bournemouth in 2019-20.
Nigel Clough was at the helm for those famous nights, but he has since departed and Jake Buxton is now tasked with guiding Burton back into the Championship in a player-manager capacity.
Albion finished 12th in League One last season and have not been given much hope of finishing any higher this term, perhaps underlined by a 2-1 loss to Fleetwood Town in their opening match on Saturday.
However, they overcame Accrington Stanley on penalties following a 1-1 draw in round one of the EFL Cup, and recent history shows that the Brewers are more than capable of pulling off an upset in this competition.
Burton Albion EFL Cup form: W
Burton Albion form (all competitions): WL
Aston Villa pre-season form: WW
Next week's league meeting with Sheffield United will take priority for Smith, but he may well field something close to his strongest XI at the Pirelli Stadium.
After a shortened pre-season, this cup tie will allows the Villans to ease in the likes of Grealish, Watkins and Cash.
Mbwana Samatta, Tom Heaton, Kortney Hause and Wesley Moraes are among those that will be pushing for inclusion in this first game back.
As for Burton, they are without John-Joe O'Toole following his red card in the loss to Fleetwood on Saturday.
Summer signing Charles Vernam missed that match through injury, but the problem is not as bad as first feared and he is likely to be in contention here.
Reece Hutchinson is also a fitness doubt, but Ryan Edwards and Lucas Akins recovered from knocks to play against Fleetwood.
Burton possible starting lineup:
Garratt; Eardley, Brayford, Anderson, Wallace; Akins, Powell, Bostwick, Quinn, Lawless; Hemmings
Aston Villa possible starting lineup:
Steer; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Hourihane, Luiz, McGinn; Trezeguet, Watkins, Grealish
We say: Burton Albion 0-2 Aston Villa
Burton beat Villa 1-0 at this stage of the EFL Cup two seasons ago. Villa are a stronger team now compared to then, however, and they are expected to field a strong lineup on Tuesday that should see them get the job done in a routine manner.
Top betting tip
Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting an away win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Away Win:curl