A merciful Manchester United last weekend put Aston Villa out of their misery.
United beat the Villans 1-0 at Old Trafford, a result that rubber-stamped their relegation from the Premier League after a protracted, painful demise.
The managerless Midlanders must now fulfill four fixtures knowing they’ll be playing in the Championship next season, with their opponents undoubtedly paying thanks to their respective deities that they’ve been presented with three easy points at the crucial stage of the season.
Arsenal, Newcastle United, Watford all face the Villa between now and May 15th, but first they entertain a Southampton side who still harbour hopes of finishing in the top six.
A price of 53/100 says the Saints inflict a tenth straight defeat on the top-flight’s bottom club, while it’s a beefy 5/1 about the side propping up the Premier League derailing their opponents’ European push.
Freed from the shackles of pending doom, there may be a few eternally optimistic punters out there willing to back a Villa outfit playing without pressure at such sizeable odds, but based on the results of their predecessors who were relegated before the season’s final day, a Southampton win is cast iron.
Only one team this decade – QPR last season – have won the match that followed confirmation of their demise. The R’s beat fellow relegation-battlers Newcastle 2-1 at Loftus Road, but their basement brethren from that campaign and those that preceded it weren’t so successful.
Since 2009/10, only four teams have recorded wins in any of the fixtures that fell after their demotion was ratified: QPR, Burnley (twice) and Portsmouth.
That’s four wins from 24 games in total, with eight draws and 12 losses completing the allocation.
Based on this, Villa can expect more of the same over the coming weeks, starting with their Saints clash.
Focusing specifically on what went down in the first matches teams played following confirmation of their relegation, six of 13 lost, another half dozen drew and one team (QPR) won.
Of the six vanquished sides, four were on the receiving end of 2-1 reverses. It’s 29/4 Southampton claim the spoils in the same manner this weekend.