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Fixture Focus: Strong run for Aston Villa

Heading into Gameweek 23, there was a good vibe around Aston Villa despite just winning one of their previous five matches. Steven Gerrard’s arrival as manager has brought a positive mentality to Villa Park, with performances improving and the fantastically impressive signings of Philippe Coutinho (loan) and Lucas Digne (£25m).

The hype is set to escalate after their 1-0 win at Everton where – of course – Digne assisted against his former club to secure a 12-point haul. Currently in the lead for most transfers this Gameweek, the attacking full-back has already risen once in price since Saturday, now valued at £5.1m.

What should excite FPL managers right now is their upcoming fixture run. Their next three matches are against Leeds (H), Newcastle (a) and Watford (H) – three of the four highest defensive totals for shots conceded and expected goals conceded (xGC). The lowest score given on the Fixture Difficulty Rating is two and it’s interesting to see four of their next five matches rated that way.

Add the possibility that their postponed Burnley (H) and Leeds (a) matches – also rated at two – could soon create a Double Gameweek, there is suddenly a clamour for Villa assets at both ends of the pitch.

Digne is the first bandwagon but Matty Cash (£5.1m) is equally threatening from right-back. Only Andrew Robertson has more penalty area touches than the rampaging Cash, who can consider himself unlucky to only have one attacking return so far. With an expected goal involvement (xGI) of 2.51, he is one of the most underachieving defenders when attacking.

In anticipation of their good fixtures starting back in Gameweek 17, Ollie Watkins (£7.7m) is owned by 31.71% of the top 100k. However, two postponements and being absent versus Brentford means it has been a stop-start experience. Managers should stay patient with Watkins though, as he’s about to face poor defences whilst being supplied by Emi Buendia (£6.2m), Coutinho (£7.0m) and two flying full-backs.

Coutinho scored on his debut cameo against Man United and subsequently became the most-bought player ahead of Gameweek 23, whilst Buendia has started to meet the pre-season hype by getting regular game time and registering both a goal and assist over the last three Gameweeks.

Jacob Ramsey stars in Aston Villa's win at Norwich City

The final consideration goes to youngster Jacob Ramsey. Priced at just £4.6m, he is a cheap enabler bringing in regular returns that suggest he should be used as more than just a bench-filling midfield option. By starting their last seven matches and scoring twice, he has earnt a place in Gerrard’s starting XI.

In a game where good strikers are hard to find and attacking defenders are rewarded, Aston Villa are certainly a team to target over upcoming weeks.

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