After a strong dose of cup action over the past week, it is time to focus once again on the Premier League this weekend and for struggling Aston Villa and Southampton, it could be a pivotal 90 minutes as they clash at Villa Park.
Villa and the Saints are separated in the table by a solitary point and both are hovering perilously close to the relegation zone, with Southampton only staying out thanks to their superior goal difference over Wigan Athletic.
With the threat of dropping down to the Championship hanging over these two sides, it is sure to be a nervy affair this Saturday, but it is almost certainly the home side that will be feeling the far greater pressure come kick-off.
For Paul Lambert and his Aston Villa side, the previous few weeks could hardly have gone any worse as apart from the narrow FA Cup victory over Ipswich Town last weekend, the Villans have drawn once and lost four, conceding a mammoth 22 goals.
If the thrashings by Chelsea, Tottenham and Wigan weren’t humiliating enough, things took an even greater turn for the worse on Tuesday evening as this young Villa side lost 3-1 to League Two Bradford City.
As that game was the first of a two-legged tie, Villa will still believe they can make the Capital One Cup final, but to lose so heavily to a side 61 places below them in the Football League ladder with a full-strength side surely can’t have done anything for team morale.
It’s on the back of this defeat, then, that they welcome Southampton to Villa Park and on this occasion, home advantage gives the Claret and Blues the edge in bwin’s 3-way betting market, as they are 7/5 favourites. The chances of an away win are not too long either, with Southampton priced at 37/20, while the draw is at 23/10.
The league table will tell you that there is nothing to choose between these two teams, but there are some factors that point towards the away side claiming three vital points.
Chief among these factors is the 4-1 win that Southampton achieved when Villa travelled to St Mary’s earlier this season. That defeat showcased Villa’s two main problems: a lack of clinical firepower in front of goal and their consistent failure to defend to a reasonable standard.
Paul Lambert’s men have scored a measly eight goals at home, yet they are still 11/50 to score in this game, perhaps thanks to Southampton only keeping one clean sheet in their past eight matches. The bookies’ faith in the Villa defence is not so strong, however, as they are a whopping 16/5 to win the game to nil.
With Southampton also struggling defensively, there is a high chance that the fans at Villa Park could be in for a high-scoring match. Both sides have been involved in a combined 17 games this season that have seen over 3.5 goals and bwin is offering 2/1 on that becoming 18 on Saturday.
If it does indeed become a goalfest, then Southampton would appear the most likely to come out on top as they have scored ten more goals than their opponents and have struck seven times in the previous four away games.
The odds on Nigel Adkins’ side scoring over 1.5 goals are 23/20, but perhaps the strongest odds on this game are 11/10 on Southampton to score the last goal of the game, given that they have struck twice as many times in the second half as Villa have this term.
Top bet: Southampton to score the final goal @ 11/10