Emile Smith Rowe vs Douglas Luiz
If one of the ‘big six’ sides were to go in for Douglas Luiz in the summer they’d be wise. All the talk of Yves Bissouma (rightly so) being the combative yet elegant midfielder that clubs are after is remiss of the Brazilian. How he’s flown under the radar is a discredit to the season he is having.
Manchester City have been regularly mentioned as activating the £25m buy-back clause they put into his deal at Villa. It’s no surprise.
Hard-working, tenacious and much improved, he’s anchored the Villa midfield diligently and granted John McGinn and Ross Barkley more freedom to express themselves.
As the last line of defence before the back four, Emile Smith Rowe‘s relentless pressing and covering may be crucial to unpicking Villa high up the pitch. As seen on his first start of the season against Chelsea and carried through in every performance since, his attitude and desire to drop off from in between the lines and press the midfielders has ruffled all kinds of feathers.
N’Golo Kante didn’t get a sniff on Boxing Day due to Smith Rowe’s defensive output, causing turnovers and breakages of play that left the Blues’ backline entirely exposed. Repeat that feat on Saturday and it will be Pepe and Saka who profit.