Since Martin O’Neill’s shock pre-season departure two years ago, Aston Villa have undergone a steady decline that has seen them slip from challenging for Europe to dicing with relegation.
O’Neill’s first return to Villa Park will only add to growing rumours that Alex McLeish may not get a second season to correct the problems that have seen Villa win just once at home since the first week of November.
The Ulsterman left Villa because of the club’s ‘lack of ambition’, but he will need to go some to surpass his three straight sixth-placed finishes with new side Sunderland.
While his arrival at the Stadium of Light saw them climb as high as eighth, they have tailed off in recent weeks and the Black Cats only sit one place above Villa at 17th in the Premier League form table.
With both squads seemingly starting to dream of summer, Villa are slight favourites at 13/10 in bwin’s 3Way football betting market, with a Sunderland win 21/10 and the draw 11/5.
Key to both sides’ problems is a lack of goals. They’ve averaged less than a goal a game between them over the past month and it’s 27/4 for the tenth 0-0 featuring either Villa or Sunderland this season.
That paucity in front of goal has been especially evident early on, with both sides getting well over 50% of their goals in the second half, so bet on most goals to be scored after the interval at 6/5.
Despite their recent struggles, this game will have loomed large on O’Neill’s calendar and the likes of Nicklas Bendtner and Stephane Sessegnon should have enough quality to strike against a Villa side shorn of first-choice defenders Richard Dunne and Stephen Warnock.
New customers using the free £25 bet they receive when signing up to a bwin account would win £150 if Sunderland win a game of under 2.5 goals at odds of 5/1.
The reverse fixture was a rare game where Villa and Sunderland opened up for a 2-2 and with the two managers needing a performance, backing both teams to score at 4/5 is also worth considering.
Recommended bet: Sunderland to win a game of under 2.5 goals @ 5/1
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