Aston Villa v Norwich: Villans can gain lift in basement battle
Andrew Atherley says the hosts could have the edge in this open-looking Premier League match on Boxing day.
Aston Villa v Norwich Thursday 26 December, 15:00 Live on Amazon Prime
Four defeats in a row
Villa dropped into the bottom three with Saturday's 3-1 home defeat by Southampton, who leapfrogged over them, and now they face another of their relegation rivals at Villa Park.
Dean Smith's side have lost four in a row in the Premier League and are 18th on 15 points, three points from safety.
Saturday's defeat was compounded by the loss of influential midfielder John McGinn, who is out for three months after fracturing his ankle early in the Southampton match. Marvelous Nakamba came on for McGinn on Saturday, while Henri Lansbury is another possible replacement.
Smith's side was already weakened by the loss of Tyrone Mings, Villa's defensive leader.
Winless in December
Norwich are one place and three points behind Villa, having also suffered a home loss on Saturday when a 1-0 half-time lead was turned into a 2-1 win for Wolves.
That left the Canaries winless in five matches in December (two draws, three defeats).
Daniel Farke suffered another blow to his depleted squad before the Wolves match when defender Ben Godfrey was ruled out until February with a knee injury. Grant Hanley, just back from injury himself, came in for Godfrey and is likely to keep his place.
Lack of clean sheets
These are the bottom two sides in the eight-match form table and things are starting to look dire, with some recent positive signs failing to translate into much-needed points.
Villa have advanced to the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup but this month's league campaign, which started with an excellent performance in a 2-2 draw away to Manchester United, has quickly turned sour.
The loss of Mings and McGinn is a hefty double blow and, with Wesley not firing up front, there is weakness all the way down the spine of Smith's team.
Villa have kept only one clean sheet in their last 13 league games but they can take encouragement from their 5-1 win at Carrow Road in the reverse fixture in October. Wesley scored twice in that match but has not hit the target in the league since then.
Norwich are even worse at keeping clean sheets (only two in 18 league matches, against Villa's three) and that weakness, coupled with an inability to take several gilt-edged first-half chances, proved their undoing again last weekend.
It is difficult to fancy either side with great conviction but Villa's home form was not too bad until Saturday's capitulation (only Liverpool and Leicester had won at Villa Park out of the last seven visitors before that) and they are the tentative pick.
With goals likely, a Villa win with both teams to score at3.50 gives a boost to the odds.
Villa Park high for goals
Villa rank joint-third for matches with over 2.5 goals (72%) while Norwich are in the mid-range on 56%.
Those overall figures drop slightly for Villa at home (67%) but dramatically for Norwich away (22%), mainly because the Canaries have failed to score in five of their nine away games.
More positively for Norwich, they have scored in their last six league games overall including the last three on the road.
After winning five consecutive Premier League games in which they scored the first goal, Norwich have dropped points on each of the last four occasions they've opened the scoring in the competition (D2 L2). Norwich/Villa on the Half Time/Full Time is available at22.00.