Watford vs Aston Villa preview: How to watch, kick-off time, team news, predicted lineups, and ones to watch
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JULY 31: Ezri Konsa of Aston Villa during the Pre-Season Friendly between Bristol City and Aston Villa at Ashton Gate on July 31, 2021 in Bristol, England. (Photo by Eddie Keogh/Getty Images)

Dean Smith's Aston Villa face a Watford side returning to the Premier League in their season opener, only days after announcing the departure of first-team coach Richard O'Kelly.

Despite selling Jack Grealish to Manchester City, Villa's recruitment suggests that Smith's side could well be in for an exciting season, Xisco Munoz's Watford is the first hurdle Villa will have to overcome as Villa look to bury the hatchet and move forward at the start of the campaign.

Xisco's Watford finished second in the Sky Bet Championship last season, returning to the Premier League immediately, the Hornets will look to overcome Villa and take an important step towards survival and consolidating their position in the top flight of English football.

As football Premier League football returns with fans this weekend, both Villa and Watford will be on the hunt for the perfect start, after Brentford dared to dream against Arsenal, Watford will be looking for a similar type of result against an established Premier League side.

Team News

As for Villa, Smith confirmed that Ollie Watkins is "pain-free" and could well feature against Watford, Emi Buendia could feature - with Leon Bailey and Bertrand Traore both likely to feature on the bench for Villa.

Morgan Sanson has returned to training this week but isn't expected to feature, whilst Douglas Luiz isn't expected to return to training until next week - following his gold medal success at the Tokoyo 2021 Olympics with Brazil.

Watford has three absentees, with Nathanial Chalobah missing the game through illness, new signing Joshua King struggling with a knee injury, and João Pedro also absent due to a knee injury. 

Predicted lineups

Aston Villa (4-3-3):

Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; Nakamba, McGinn, Ramsey; Buendia, Ings, El Ghazi.

Watford (4-3-3):

Bachmann; Femina, Troost-Ekong, Cathcart, Rose; Cleverley, Hughs, Etebo; Sarr, Hernandez, Dennis.

Ones to watch

Danny Ings: Villa's latest addition to the striking department adds some much-needed quality and depth in an important position. Smith suggested that Ollie Watkins may miss the season opener due to a knee injury, leaving Ings able to make his Premier League debut for Villa. 

Ings, 29, scored 12 goals in the Premier League last season and will be looking to improve on last season's tally following his move to the second city. 

Emmanuel Dennis: Watford's latest addition to their forward line has the attributes to succeed in the Premier League, despite not scoring a league goal last season. 

Dennis averaged 23.99 pressures per 90 minutes last season, with 1.99 tackles per 90 minutes also - putting him within the top one percentile for both statistics respectively. By relentlessly leading the line and terrorizing oppositions defences, Dennis could prove to be a useful addition to the Hornets upon their return to the Premier League.

Previous meetings

Vicarage Road has proven to be a difficult place for Villa to play, with Watford winning three of their last five encounters with Villa at home.

The last time the two sides met, Aston Villa emerged victorious in a 2-1 win at home, with goals from Douglas Luiz and a late screamer from Ezri Konsa/Tyrone Mings providing Villa with a vital three points in January 2020. 

Against Villa, Watford has won eight games from 21, drawing five and losing eight. With the new season on the horizon, it provides both teams the perfect chance to better their head-to-head record as an exciting new chapter begins in the Premier League, as fans return to stadia.

How to watch

The game will not be broadcast live on TV in the UK, to follow along with the game fans may tune into BBC Radio WM to listen to the audio commentary, or alternatively catch up with highlights later in the evening on BBC's Match of the Day.