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Second-Place Manchester United To Take On Revitalized Aston Villa

Ole Gunnar Solskjær's Manchester United has the opportunity to pull even with Liverpool on Friday, but the Norwegian and his side will have no easy task. 

Aston Villa has looked a side reborn this season after surviving a brush with relegation at the back end of 2019-20. Dean Smith's side heads into Friday's clash in fifth place on 26 points, a tally it did not reach until Match Day 28 last season. 

Doubtless, Villa's new signings have helped the team turn things around. Ollie Watkins has eight goals in 17 games after arriving from Brentford, while ex-Chelsea winger Bertrand Traoré has contributed three since moving from Lyon. Former Arsenal goalie Emiliano Martinez has proven he has the requisite quality for the Premier League, contributing to eight clean sheets in 14 games. The defense has also been bolstered by Matty Cash, who arrived from Nottingham Forest to immediately claim the starting right back spot as his own. 

Villa has also benefited from the improvement of many of last year's key men. Douglas Luiz and John McGinn look a formidable duo in midfield, while Jack Grealish pulls the strings and entertains on a weekly basis. He leads the league in chances created so far with 51. Anwar El Ghazi has five goals in eight league games, including four in his last three. He has already bested his tally of four in 34 games from last season.

Both sides come into the game in good form. Villa is undefeated in its last five games in the league while United has won seven of its last nine, last suffering defeat to Arsenal at the beginning of November. The Red Devils earned a late victory over Wolves last time out thanks to a stoppage time goal from Marcus Rashford, his seventh of the season. 

The Villains are without Trézéguet and long-term injury absence Wesley, who suffered an ACL injury last New Year's Day, though Ross Barkley is a possibility to feature having last played in November. Solskjær's side will be without Marcos Rojo and likely Victor Lindelof as well. Aston Villa could enter the top four with a win after Everton's game against Manchester City was postponed due to coronavirus worries for Pep's side. 

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