Saturday 29/8/15, Villa Park, 3pm
Odds: Aston Villa: 17/20, Sunderland: 13/4, Draw: 12/5
Referee: Robert Madley
Last three meetings:
Sunderland 0-4 Aston Villa
Aston Villa 0-0 Sunderland
Sunderland 0-1 Aston Villa
Form: Aston Villa: WLL, Sunderland: LLD
Aston Villa – Jose Angel Crespo Rincon, Gary Gardner, Jores Okore
Sunderland – Jeremain Lens, Billy Jones, Younes Kaboul, Adam Johnson, Jordi Gomez
Aston Villa: None
Win, Lose or Draw?
You can forgive both Villa and Sunderland fans for getting a feeling that this new season looks and feels like a continuation of the last.
While Villa began with a somewhat fortunate 1-0 win at Bournemouth, their following results have seen consecutive losses epitomised by a struggle in front of goal, while Sunderland needed less than half an hour of the new season to drain all hope from their long-suffering fans. By 3.25pm on the opening day they were 3-0 down to Leicester, and when that was followed by a 3-1 home loss to Norwich, the jeering at the Stadium of Light had begun in record time.
A hard-fought point at home to Swansea suggests that Dick Advocaat’s men are not down and out just yet, but with the Dutch boss repeating on a daily basis how his squad still needs strengthening, should September 1st arrive without further quality additions, don’t be surprised to see all change on Wearside once again.
At Villa Park, any sense of transfer disgruntlement revolves around outgoings rather than incomings, with several arrivals not yet masking the disappointment of losing key players Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph.
It all suggests a long season in store for both sides, yet there is plenty to take heart from this encounter if watching as a neutral.
With Sunderland having shipped eight goals already this term, Villa boss Tim Sherwood will surely see this match as an opportunity to get his new strikers firing, with only Rudy Gestede off the mark as yet (Villa’s only other goal this season was a Palace own goal) and Jordan Ayew guilty of missing a glut of chances.
Sunderland, meanwhile, will take heart from their goalscoring exploits this season, with four goals from their three games a sign that their attacking returns may be on the up, though Advocaat will be keen to ensure that it doesn’t come at the expense of a tight defence. Jermain Defoe looks somewhere close to his clinical former self with two well taken goals already, while Jeremain Lens has also looked sharp in tandem with the former England striker.
Given the likelihood of goals at either end, both teams to score looks to be a solid pick.
Recommended bet: Will both teams score in the match: Yes @ 19/20
On a similar note, backing the match to produce a few goals can be backed with some confidence. While Sunderland’s defensive frailties have been well-documented, Villa’s defensive unit isn’t too dissimilar to the players who turned out last year when they shipped 57 goals, four more than Sunderland and the third worst defence in the league.
Ashley Westwood and Carlos Sanchez are still charged with protecting the back four, and with Jordan Amavi’s arrival at left back more with an attacking mentality in mind, it leaves a lot of pressure on Micah Richards to shore everything up. With Lens and Defoe on form, Sunderland should find a way through.
Recommended bet: Over 2.5 goals @ 23/20
Who’s going to score?
As mentioned, Defoe (@ xx ) and Lens (@ xx) are certainly contenders, but with both Norwich and Leicester exposing Sunderland’s deficiencies on set pieces and only a fantastic display from Costel Pantilimon preventing Swansea from following suit, the wise pick looks to be a Villa strike from a similar scenario. Enter Gestede, arguably possessing the most potent head in the country from corners and free-kicks.
Recommended bet: Rudy Gestede to score first @ xx
If points were awarded for second half performances only, Sunderland would be riding high with seven points from their three games. For whatever reason this season, Advocaat’s men have been slow starters, conceding six goals in the first half already this season, compared to just two in the second. Sherwood should therefore be looking for a strong start from his Villa team, but it also makes Sunderland a great pick to win the second half (as they did against Leicester and Swansea) at 33/10.
Recommended bet: Which team will win the second half: Sunderland @ 33/10