‘Unusual’ striker pairing as Emery lets loose with FA Cup rotation - Aston Villa predicted XI vs Middlesbrough

Here’s the Aston Villa lineup we predict will face Middlesbrough in the FA Cup, including a slightly unusual striker pairing.

Aston Villa are in Emirates FA Cup third round action on Saturday afternoon as they travel northeast to face Sky Bet Championship outfit Middlesbrough. The Villans will be keen to put right their wrongs of last season when they were knocked out prematurely by the then League Two title chasers Stevenage.

Unai Emery has admitted the Premier League is the main focus this campaign but the Spaniard absolutely loves cup competitions. He was devastated when Villa were knocked out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle last time around and will be eager to go a lot further in 2024.

Middlesbrough are no easy turnover, however, as they are likely to be in the fight for the Championship play-offs later this term. It was a poor start to the season for Michael Carrick's men but an improvement has seen them soar out of the relegation zone and up to 12th, just four points shy of Sunderland in sixth.

Emery will show this weekend's opposition plenty of respect as he makes his team selection, albeit with some slight rotation. The head coach has hinted previously at how his limited number of changes in the Premier League will have a knock-on effect on other competitions, giving fringe players the chance to feature.

With that in mind, here's the Villa starting XI we think will be named at the Riverside Stadium, including an unusual striker duo and a risky but exciting goalkeeper choice.

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