Hard to separate sides in key Villa Park clash

ASTON VILLA vs EVERTON

SUNDAY – 4.00PM SKY SPORTS 1

ASTON VILLA and Everton were involved in arguably the most exciting tussle in the Premier League last year, the race for the fourth Champions League place. Both ultimately fell short – Everton finishing eighth behind Villa’s sixth. Two weeks into the new season then and a challenge for Europe this year must seem a long way off for both sides.

The Villans have had to come to terms with the massive blow of Martin O’Neill’s walkout just days before the season and, judging by the 6-0 walloping they were dealt by a newly promoted Newcastle last weekend, they are struggling. Everton, meanwhile, have taken just a single point from their two opening matches. Even at this early stage of the campaign, neither of these closely matched sides will want to lose ground on the other, so perhaps we should expect both David Moyes and Kevin MacDonald to set up to avoid defeat rather than go all out for victory.

Aston Villa and Everton have tied five of their last seven meetings and both display a tendency to draw against similarly matched teams too. In Villa’s 12 home matches against top-half, non-Big Four sides since 2008/09 they have finished level on eight occasions, while the Toffees have drawn five of their eight such away games in the same period. Furthermore, with eight draws at Villa Park last year and nine during the 2008/09 campaign, no group of home fans have watched more matches finish level in the last two seasons. Back this match to be drawn at 23/10 on Betdaq.

The analysis regarding the number of goals is a little less clear-cut. The outcome of previous meetings would suggest a high-scoring match as there have been four or more goals in four of the last five head-to-heads in the Premier League, and in five out of six if you include the fifth-round FA Cup tie at Goodison Park in 2009. However, aside from Villa’s opening day victory over a poor West Ham and Everton’s win against League One’s Huddersfield in the week, neither team has really impressed in front of goal. The hosts will miss the threat of the departed James Milner, scorer against the Hammers and Everton clearly lacked a cutting edge in attack on their trip to Blackburn. Selling goals at 2.4 with Sporting Index looks the right option, while a 1-1 result is good value at 6/1 with Hills.

POINTERS...
Match to be drawn at 23/10 on Betdaq
Sell goals at 2.4 with Sporting Index
Match to finish 1-1 at 6/1 with William Hill

MANCHESTER UNITED vs WEST HAM

TOMORROW – 5.30PM ESPN

AVRAM GRANT has made a pretty appalling start as manager of West Ham. Comprehensively beaten 3-0 by the other claret and blues on day one, the Upton Park faithful subsequently had to witness a 3-1 defeat to Bolton last weekend. There was some encouraging play, particularly in the first half, but the fact that the Hammers couldn’t convert – and a Matthew Upson headed own-goal – surely only added to the feeling that things aren’t going the way of West Ham.

At the Boleyn Ground again in midweek, the Hammers looked certain to have to deal with the embarrassing outcome of being held to a draw by League Two’s Oxford until captain Scott Parker got his side out of jail with a goal in stoppage time.

After Grant’s own admission that his charges are a bit down in the dumps, it’s far from an ideal time – if there ever is one – to be visiting Old Trafford. Manchester United are a best-priced 1/6 and it seems the Londoners will have to wait to pick up their first points of the season. United have won all of their last 15 matches at home to bottom-half teams, but there are better bets to be had than simply backing United to win at such short odds.

An impressive 13 of the these 15 wins were to nil while the Red Devils, besides doing the double over West Ham for the past two seasons, won all four of these matches without conceding. The 8/11 with Paddy Power for the hosts to win to nil therefore looks very appealing.

Like Chelsea against Wigan and Arsenal against Blackpool last week, if United get ahead they are liable to twist the knife and push on to win by four or five. The Hammers have only managed to score from the spot in the league so far, so rather than buy goals, I also suggest buying United’s supremacy at 2.5 with Sporting Index.

POINTERS...
Man Utd to win to nil at 8/11 with Paddy Power
Buy Man Utd supremacy at 2.5 with Sporting Index

BLACKBURN vs ARSENAL

TOMORROW – 12.45PM SKY SPORTS 2

OF THE numerous apparent mismatches in the Premier League this weekend, Blackburn Rovers arguably stand the best chance of causing an upset. Big Sam has made Ewood Park a very tricky place to visit and a manager as astute as Arsene Wenger will know that getting a win here will not be as easy as the odds of 8/13 suggest.

On their way to a top-half finish last season, Blackburn were unbeaten at home to the Big Four, including a 2-1 victory over Arsenal. Perhaps even more impressively, Rovers have won seven of their last 10 matches at home. Arsenal looked full of confidence against Blackpool at the Emirates last weekend and go into this match knowing they have won on three of their last six trips to this particular part of Lancashire but, of late, the Gunners have been misfiring outside of North London. They are winless in five on the road and have won just half of their 18 trips to middle-third sides over the past two seasons.

With this in mind it is difficult to side with the visitors at the price available and laying Arsenal at 8/11 on Betdaq has far more appeal.

Blackburn seem to start well in front of their own fans and of their seven most recent home wins, they went in at the break leading 1-0 on all but one occasion. Also back Blackburn to lead at half-time at 5/1 with Totesport.

POINTERS...
Lay Arsenal at 8/11 on Betdaq
Blackburn to lead at half-time at 5/1 with Totesport