Aston Villa make the trip to Stamford Bridge for the second time in as many weeks as they take on Chelsea in the third round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night.
Dean Smith’s side fell to a 3-0 defeat in the Premier League against the Blues despite a battling performance, and will no doubt be hoping for a better result this time around.
With the cup perhaps not the biggest of priorities for Smith or Villa, it may give a chance to some of the club’s more fringe players, one of them, Morgan Sanson.
It’s been a rather frustrating first few months in English football for the January signing, making just nine appearances in the Premier League and that too only totalling 291 minutes worth of football.
Speaking after his signing back in the January transfer window, Smith waxed lyrical about the kind of qualities the Frenchman could bring, saying: “He has got a big game mentality, he has played at the top of the French league for the last five years, played in the Champions League.
“He is a great technician and has great tactical awareness. He can play in a number of positions, can set up goals and can score goals. He has a bit of everything in his game so we’re really pleased with the acquisition.”
According to The Birmingham Mail’s Ashley Preece, a number of Villa’s substitutes were put through their paces on Saturday night by fitness coach Jack Sharkey, and “Frenchman Morgan Sanson was also a part of that running group despite not being named in Smith’s 20-man squad.”
Before his move to the Midlands, he averaged an impressive 1.8 tackles and 1.1 key passes per game in Ligue 1, both of which ranked him favourably compared to the rest of Villa’s squad. In fact, only two other players averaged more tackles per match than him, while again, only three others had averaged more key passes too.
Given reports in recent months have suggested that Smith actually isn’t that convinced by the Frenchman – it’s even been suggested that they’ve made a mistake in signing him – tonight feels like a particularly crucial chance for Sanson to showcase why the club were right to splash out back in January.
And, with the likes of Jacob Ramsey and Carney Chukwuemeka battling their way into first-team contention after impressing in the academy, Sanson has got far more competition for places now than he ever did before.
Tonight feels like a potential now or never moment for the Marseille man to show that he belongs here at Villa Park.