Warriors midfield enforcer Marvelous Nakamba is in line to play a more prominent role for English Premier League side Aston Villa next season as his profile at the club continues to grow after overcoming a difficult period by ending the previous season strongly.
After spending most of his offseason in Bulawayo, where he is constructing a multi-million dollar mansion, the 27-year-old Zimbabwe international recently returned to Aston Villa for the beginning of pre-season preparations ahead of his third season in England's top-flight league.
As the kickoff date for the new Premier League season draws closer, Nakamba has been tipped to continue from where he left off towards the end of last season by featuring regularly in the Villa starting line-up.
Aston Villa, who play their first pre-season friendly against English fourth-tier side Walsall on Wednesday, begin their 2021-2022 Premier League campaign with a tricky away trip to newly-promoted Watford on August 14.
According to the Birmingham Live, Nakamba is expected to feature in Villa's opening league match because Brazilian midfielder Douglas Luiz could be given more time to rest, after featuring for his country at the Olympic Games.
Luiz was also part of Brazil's squad at the Copa America.
However, according to the Birmingham Live, the Brazilian, who was an unused sub in the Copa America final, could find it hard to displace Nakamba from the starting line-up even when he returns from Tokyo.
"That (Douglas Luiz's absence) presents an opportunity for Marvelous Nakamba. The 27-year-old proved more than a capable back-up for Luiz throughout last season, but the stats suggest that it could be hard for the Brazilian to regain his place upon his return," Birmingham Live reported on Friday.
"Making nine league starts, with 13 appearances overall, Nakamba was preferred over Luiz for the final two games of the season, resulting in back-to-back wins over Spurs and Chelsea.
"The Zimbabwean also played 90 minutes in Villa's home win over Arsenal and away win at Leeds. Overall, Villa averaged 1.7 points when Nakamba was named in the starting XI, as opposed to 1.34 points without him in the team."
In addition to helping Villa secure impressive results whenever he was on the field of play, Nakamba also boasts of the best defensive stats at the Birmingham club when it comes to tackles and interceptions.
The holding midfielder ranked third overall for tackles (1.7 per game) and interceptions (1.3 per game) among Villa's squad last season, only behind both fullbacks Matt Targett and Matty Cash in both categories.
"Though he initially struggled in Villa's return to the top-flight, the £11m signing proved his worth as a more defensive option last season.
"A different profile to Luiz, if Villa do continue their fine form with Nakamba in the side, he could become a surprise key man for [Dean] Smith soon," the Birmingham Live added.
Nakamba was one of the first senior players to report for pre-season training at Aston Villa's Bodymoor Heath training facilities last week as he looks to prove his worth to Smith ahead of the new season.
Although he is likely to feature regularly for his club, Nakamba is, however, expected to miss part of Villa's campaign as he is a key member of the Warriors who feature in the Africa Cup of Nations finals, which takes place in Cameroon from January 9 to February 6, 2022.