After three long months without the Premier League were finally back as Aston Villa host Sheffield United and the lay of the land could not be more different for these two teams.
The home side are living dangerously in 19th place among several teams vying to beat the drop.
Meanwhile, Sheffield United on the other hand are in dream land in seventh spot on their return to the top flight.
When relegation was priced up last summer the market rated Villa ahead of the other newl- promoted sides. Sheffield were as short at 8/13 at one point.
Villa splashed the cash with a net spend of £140m according to transfermarkt.com and as a consequence their squad has not gelled at all this season.
Of course, when you lose your number one goalkeeper in Tom Heaton and the impressive John McGinn to injury it is naturally going to have a negative effect, but how can you make excuses for them when Sheffield United’s net spend is just £62m.
The difference is coaching, as is been pointed out numerous times over the season Chris Wilder is very impressive and he has proven over the past few seasons to be highly capable of creating a system that is hard to beat, only happening on seven occasions this season in fact.
Of those seven defeats, five of them came against the current top three and on their travels, they are unbeaten against the rest of the league.
Wilder has done this with a set XI who know their roles inside out, with a greater than the sum of their parts philosophy.
This isn’t going to be easy for the Villa. In their last Premier League match back in March, the Villa got smashed 4-0 by Leicester, but also around that time they had put up a spirted performance in the narrow League Cup defeat to Man City and there was optimism that Jack Grealish could lead them to safety.
Subsequently our Jack the lad got himself into a bit of bother when breaking lockdown guidelines, but he will need to keep the head down if Villa are to have hope.
The major issue for Aston Villa is that they have a dependency on Grealish for their creative output.
Unsurprisingly, he ranks top for key passes per 90, most goals and assists and has played the most minutes of any outfield player. Pretty good right? The problem with such a high dependency is that this can be identified easily and nullified by opposition.
I can just see Wilder telling his men to disrupt his rhythm by any means necessary, tactical fouls and rotating of the players conducting them would be one way to stop Grealish from flourishing.
Since there has been such a break from football, it is unfair to expect a high performer like Grealish to be able to carry on where he left off.
Number’s wise Aston Villas are pretty poor at home, where you would expect a newly promoted side to target for points. They have collected just 17 points from a possible total 39 and are winless against the current top 10. Villa have the worst defensive record in the league.
Sheffield United, as I outlined earlier, are solid away from home – granted they have only won four times and each victory was against sides below them. However, they do boast the division’s second-best defensive record.
With so many things in doubt on the return of the Premier League such as condition of players, home advantage and players motivation levels, expect the Sheffield boys to bring their no-nonsense style back to Villa Park on their return.
With all this in mind. Let’s have a look at the three best bets:
As outlined earlier, one major way to nullify Aston Villa’s offensive output is to take Jack Grealish out of the game. Due to the doubt over fitness I am inclined to stay away from player bookings and go for the #WhatOddsPaddy punt of Sheffield United to have 1 or more cards in each half, which looks a nice bet @ 9/5 on what should be a highly fought game.
I do fancy The Blades to grind out a fifth away win and the price of Sheffield United to win by exactly 1 goal looks a nice play given its paid out in three of their last four away wins.
Lastly, we may be able to profit from Jack Grealish’s over exuberance and eagerness to lead the line, 3 or more shots on target from him appeals as small outside interest bet.
* Prices on our snazzy new bet widget are bang up to date.
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