Aston Villa will take to the field in front of their own fans on Saturday as they look to extend their unbeaten run to four matches against mid-table Stoke City.
A young Villa side are in the midst of their best run of results of the season, but they remain precariously perched just two points above the relegation zone.
Paul Lambert, whose side are 27/20 favourites for Saturday’s clash, surely did not expect to be in charge of a relegation scrap when he left Norwich City in the summer to take over at Villa Park.
But the harsh reality is that with a squad that consists of senior players whose best form has long disappeared into the sunset and a clutch of Premier League rookies, many of whom are not quite good enough yet, the dour Scot has a major fight on his hands to keep the Claret and Blues in the top flight.
In fairness, the Villa players have shown evidence in recent games that they are slowly beginning to warm to the task ahead of them, with four points collected in back-to-back home games against Arsenal and Reading before a somewhat disappointing draw away to hapless QPR.
The five points gained from the previous three games have done wonders for their league position, moving them out of the bottom three and up to 15th , but if they want to move higher then they have to find their scoring boots quickly with a run of tricky games coming up over the Christmas period.
With 15 games played, the Villans have only mustered a pathetic 12 goals, which would be the worst tally in the league if it weren’t for QPR, and they have only twice managed the feat of scoring twice in the same match.
Those clever bookies at bwin have noticed this too and they are offering 1/2 on the home side to score under 1.5 goals, but odds on them to score exactly two rocket up to 11/4.
Stoke aren’t much more prolific themselves as they have only scored two more than their hosts this weekend, but they have been aided by one of the tightest defences in the league which has conceded just 12 goals.
Villa, on the other hand, have seen 23 fly into their net, which underlines why they are in a fight for their lives and the Potters are sitting above Arsenal in ninth place.
Stoke, who are priced at 2/1 to grab consecutive away wins, have, like Villa, been enjoying their best spell of results this campaign, but their haul of four wins and a draw from the last five games is far more impressive than Villa’s recent upturn.
That being said, Tony Pulis’ side have actually drawn more games than they have won over the opening four months and have drawn four of their seven away fixtures. Villa have also caught a dose of the drawing bug in the past 18 months, with a whopping 17 of their 38 games ending in stalemate last season and five finishing all square so far this term.
With that in mind, it would be no surprise to see two improving sides cancel each other out at Villa Park and a price of 11/5 for the draw is surely the way to play this one.
New customers can register here to claim a free £20 bet and placing this on Villa and Stoke to draw would return an impressive £64 if successful.