After defeating them with a last-gasp winner in the Premier League midweek, Aston Villa entertain West Brom again, this time in the FA Cup. Luke Moore takes a look…
Aston Villa v West Brom
Live on BBC 1
Aston Villa finally secured their first win in the league since December 7th on Tuesday night, courtesy of a Christian Benteke 94th minute winner. It was likely a great relief to Villa fans, not to mention new manager Tim Sherwood, and the fact that it came against a local rival would have made it all the sweeter.
The assignment on Saturday is literally exactly the same – beat West Brom at home – and with the added confidence that Sherwood can now tap into, his side might well be able to make it two wins in two and find themselves with a Wembley date to look forward to. This game may not have anything to do with Villa’s Premier League survival in a traditional sense, but momentum is key at this stage of the season and a defeat to local rivals is not on the agenda in any way.
Ron Vlaar may be back after a calf injury, but Sherwood has quite a few other injuries to contend with, including Kieran Richardson and Philippe Senderos.
Tony Pulis would have been disappointed with his side’s defeat to Saturday’s opponents last time out; he prides himself on being a canny Premier League operator and would have fancied his team’s chances against a flailing Villa helmed by an inexperienced manager. He has a chance to remedy this at the weekend, and the carrot being dangled is also a chance to lead a club out at Wembley for the first time since the 2011 FA Cup Final.
What’s more, the momentum point applies to the Baggies as well; they may be eight points off relegation but two defeats in as many games against a keen rival is hardly good for confidence, and with games against Stoke and Man City coming up in the league they could well find themselves being dragged back into the relegation conversation if they’re not careful.
On the team news front, Victor Anichebe is out, and Callum McManaman faces a late fitness test.
The prices on this market are very finely poised – 2.8615/8 on a home win, 2.915/8 on an away win and 3.211/5 on The Draw. Of course, Villa were victorious on Tuesday night but it couldn’t really have been much closer and I’m minded to think this game might be the same. The Villans don’t get many goals at all, although this has slightly improved since Sherwood came in, and a Tony Pulis side is always pretty well-drilled and built on a solid foundation.
With the chance to play at Wembley on offer, this affair could be even more cagey than the league meeting, and as a result a draw might be the best bet.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
If Paul Lambert was still in charge of this Villa team, Unders would be a no-brainer. In fact, the price would be so short I’d probably advise a backing of Under 1.5 Goals; Villa didn’t score under him and as I’ve mentioned, West Brom under Pulis have been pretty solid.
Unfortunately, the Sherwood factor means that this market is a bit more difficult to call – the man they ironically call ‘Tactics Tim’ has shown me no evidence in his tenure at Spurs or Villa to suggest he knows how to set up a team to be defensively solid, he likes his sides to attack and as a result they tend to be fairly open. Two of Villa’s last three have gone Overs.
I’m not sure if the market has caught up with this phenomena in general though, Unders is priced up at 1.664/6 and Overs is a big 2.447/5. That said, on this occasion we have to take into account the caginess of the affair given a spot at Wembley is up for grabs.
Half With Most Goals?
Aston Villa have scored seven goals in this season’s FA Cup, and according to Opta four of them have come in the 88th minute or later. Add that fact to the notion that neither of these teams are going to want to give much away early on, and you have yourself a great bet on the second half being the half with most goals at 5/4 on the Sportsbook. You can also back the half time draw at 2.0421/20 on the Exchange, which I think is a fairly good bet also, but for the larger price back the second half being more exciting than the first.
Back Second Half in Half With Most Goals? market at 5/4 on the Sportsbook