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Preview: Aston Villa v West Ham
12 Aug 2010 - 15:17:36
No doubt the controversy surrounding Martin O'Neill's departure from Villa Park will overshadow Saturday's Premier League opener between Aston Villa and West Ham United.
The Villans announced on Monday that the Northern Irishman had walked away from his role as manager just days before the season's start, throwing their preparations into disarray.
Reserve team manager Kevin MacDonald will fill the hot-seat for the opener, but the club are hoping to have a new man appointed before their second game of the campaign at Newcastle United on August 22.
It is all change at West Ham as well now that former Chelsea and Portsmouth supremo Avram Grant is at the helm. He will be seeking to improve the Hammers' fortunes after their disappointing showing last term.
Villa stars Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Stewart Downing will be looking to impress after missing out on England's World Cup squad while the future of James Milner remains in the balance.
Grant will be expecting his spine of Robert Green, Matthew Upson, Scott Parker and Carlton Cole to help get the club off to a decent start in the Midlands at the weekend.
The hosts will be without young midfielder Fabian Delph, who is missing with a long-term knee injury, while West Ham must do without the services of knee victims Zavon Hines and Jack Collison.
Last weekend, Villa were held to a goalless draw by Spanish side Valencia at Villa Park as they ended their pre-season preparations.
Prior to that fixture, they were smashed 4-1 by Benfica and grabbed a 3-1 success against Feyenoord in Rotterdam. Goals from Marc Albrighton, Emile Heskey and Steve Sidwell secured the well-earned win on July 31.
Last Saturday, the Hammers drew 0-0 with Deportivo La Coruna at Upton Park, before winning 5-3 on penalties.
On August 3, Alessandro Diamanti's second-half effort wasn't enough as League Two outfit Southend United secured a 1-1 draw thanks to a late equaliser from Anthony Grant at Roots Hall.
Last term the Hammers scored a 2-1 win on home soil when young forward Hines snatched a last-gasp winner.
Mark Noble gave the Hammers the lead from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time before winger Young missed his own spot-kick, but the wide man crashed home a stunning strike from 25 yards before Hines' intervention.
In January, the two sides played out a dour goalless draw in the Midlands.