While there may be higher-profile encounters in the Premier League during this gameweek, the Claret and Blue derby might prove to be one of the most interesting to watch.
Aston Villa and West Ham have both enjoyed productive starts to the season, performing slightly above expectations, and were consequently separated by just a single point and a single place in the Premier League table before the weekend’s action.
So does that make Monday night’s clash at the London Stadium a foregone conclusion with both teams sharing the spoils, or could there be an outright winner?
GIVEMESPORT have created a combined XI featuring the best talents from both teams, to see whether the Irons or the Villans boast a slight advantage…
Goalkeeper - Lukasz Fabianski
Two shot-stoppers who both felt compelled to leave Arsenal for the sake of their careers, there’s plenty of similarities between Lukasz Fabianski and Emiliano Martinez, while their statistics this season are virtually identical with the same number of clean sheets and saves recorded.
But the West Ham No.1 edges it slightly on percentage of saves to shots faced and goals conceded, while he’s also saved two penalties to his Aston Villa counterpart’s one.
Right Back - Matty Cash
Another closely-fought battle.
Both summer signings have come into their respective sides and impressed, contributing both offensively and defensively.
Right Centre-Back - Tyrone Mings
Quick, powerful, dominant in the air and composed in possession, Tyrone Mings is one of the most well-rounded and talented centre-backs outside of the Premier League’s Big Six.
And while Fabian Balbuena and Angelo Ogbonna have played their parts in West Ham’s strong start to the season, it’s Mings’ status as the real leader of Villa’s defence that just pushes him ahead of West Ham’s central defenders in our reckoning.
Left Centre-Back - Aaron Cresswell
How Aaron Cresswell would actually fare in a two-man partnership remains open to debate but his form this season obliged an inclusion in this combined XI.
The 30-year-old’s already found three assists and the extra time allowed on the ball as a wide centre-back has given him a new lease of life.
He’s also done a fantastic job covering for West Ham’s left wing-back, which brings us onto…
Left Back - Arthur Masuaku
A flying wing-back with real talent who can never quite show it off on enough occasions.
Nonetheless, with Aston Villa’s Matt Targett frankly not up to much this season, we’re more than happy to give Arthur Masuaku the nod, even if he’ll have to make do in his somewhat less effective full-back role.
Defensive Midfield - Declan Rice
As important as Douglas Luiz is to this Aston Villa side, we simply can’t overlook how solid Declan Rice has been for West Ham.
Playing in a midfield two seems to have brough the best out of him this season but in this instance the England international will need to anchor an offensive-minded midfield.
Right Central Midfield - John McGinn
With averages of 1.9 key passes and 1.8 dribbles per match - not to mention one goal and four assists already - John McGinn brings attacking impetus to our combined XI’s engine room.
But the Scotland international is also one of the hardest grafters you’ll find in the Premier League, and it’s that combination which has won us over.
Left Central Midfield - Ross Barkley
Spare a thought for Tomas Soucek who would certainly bring something unique to this combined XI through his aerial ability, having won the most aerials per match of any player on either team by a noteworthy distance.
Ultimately though, we’ve gone for Ross Barkley having begun his Aston Villa career with three goal involvements in six outings. He’s also second only to Grealish for key passes per match through Villa and West Ham’s squads.
Right Wing - Jarrod Bowen
Jarrod Bowen will probably feel he could be doing a little better this season despite a solid three goals in nine games, following a fantastic second half to last season after moving to the London Stadium in January.
Nonetheless, Villa’s resident right winger Trezeguet hasn’t exactly set the world alight this term either and there’s something about the Englishman’s gritty spirit that makes him such an attractive prospect for this combined XI.
Left Wing - Jack Grealish
Pablo Fornals deserves a mention with two goals and two assists to his name this term but Grealish is a level above the rest of the talent throughout both squads.
He’s a real talisman for Villa and was the first name on our combined XI team sheet.
Striker - Michail Antonio
Some controversy to end things on. Ollie Watkins has enjoyed a fruitful start to life in the Premier League with six goals and one assist in eight games, but we can’t simply overlook Michail Antonio’s capacity to operate as a one-man wrecking ball in the final third.
He’s run West Ham’s attack virtually single-handed for large parts of this season, notching up three goals in six outings, so just imagine what he’d do with our combined XI actually supporting him.News Now - Sport News