Paul Merson predicts Aston Villa's opening game, warns of relegation battle

Aston Villa could be in for a relegation fight if they lose to Bournemouth, says Paul Merson.

It has been a summer of change at Aston Villa, in part enforced by the departures of Fabian Delph and Christian Benteke.

Former Villa midfielder Paul Merson is worried about their prospects, and has warned the side, speaking to SkySports, that they could be in for a rough ride this season, especially if they lose their opening fixture away to Bournemouth.

Merson believes they will suffer defeat too, projecting a 2-0 win for the newly promoted side, at Villa's expense.

He said: "If Villa lose this game I think they will be in a relegation battle this season, I really do.

"Tim Sherwood is a good manager but if you take away a couple of the good results which he had last year, add that to the fact this is the first time he’s bought in players – players who don’t have Premier League experience – and the fact they’ve lost two high-calibre players and I think they could be in trouble.

"Villa have been hovering over the relegation zone for the past two or three seasons and I think newly-promoted Bournemouth will cause them all sorts of problems at Dean Court."

Merson added of Villa: "They’ve signed a lot of players that we don’t really know a lot about," which may say much about his lack of knowledge of France's Ligue 1, but there is no certainty any will instantly adapt to the Premier League.

Villa finished in 17th place last season, their form trailing off after a late distraction due to their FA Cup run, but it could have been a lot worse until Paul Lambert was fired.

This will be Tim Sherwood's first full season as manager and he has the platform to prove his doubters wrong. Losses of the spine of the team in Shay Given, Ron Vlaar, Fabian Delph, Tom Cleverley and Christian Benteke do not help one bit, but it should place their results in context, and make a good season for Villa look like even more of an impressive achievement.

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