Aston Villa v Southampton: Goals likely in crucial relegation battle

Simon Mail previews Saturday's vital match towards the bottom of the Premier League with Aston Villa hosting Southampton...

Aston Villa v Southampton
Saturday, 15:00

Villa being dragged into trouble

Aston Villa settled into life back in the Premier League promisingly enough but three successive defeats have dropped Dean Smith's side to only one place above the relegation zone. Losses to Chelsea and second-placed Leicester were no surprise but Villa disappointed last weekend in their 2-0 defeat at Sheffield United. Both teams won promotion last season from the Championship, but while the Blades are inside the top seven, Villa are locked in a struggle to avoid the drop.
If Villa are to stay up, the influence of midfield captain Jack Grealish will be critical. Grealish is knocking on the door for an England call-up and excelled, with a goal in an impressive performance, during the recent 2-2 draw at Manchester United. Aston Villa's priority is the league but the club can look forward to a Carabao Cup semi-final against Leicester in the new year after thrashing Liverpool's youngsters 5-0 on Tuesday night.

Saints facing tough winter

Southampton head into this weekend's crucial fixture inside the relegation zone and only behind Villa on goal difference. Ralph Hasenhuttl made a significant impact after being appointed last season as he guided the club to safety. This campaign has not gone to plan though and the undoubted nadir came in the humiliating 9-0 hammering at home to Leicester in October.
Most of the Saints' problems have come at home with their only wins coming recently against the bottom two; Watford and Norwich. Southampton missed a big opportunity last weekend after losing 1-0 at home to fellow strugglers West Ham to leave them facing a bleak winter. Their over reliance on Danny Ings has been all too apparent with the striker supplying half of their 18 league goals.

Villa hard to trust as favourites

Aston Villa are 2.52 favourites this weekend but there are reasons to be wary about siding with the hosts. Villa have gone four league matches without a victory, although all of these matches came against sides in the top seven. The midweek cup success will have given them a boost but it's not easy to have total confidence in backing them to win.
Southampton are 2.94 to claim a priceless win. The Saints have a strong record against them with a five-match unbeaten run in top-flight meetings. But this is the first one since 2016 and Southampton's current team are lacking confidence. Back-to-back defeats to Newcastle and West Ham do not suggest they are an appealing price to win this weekend.
There is very little to separate the two teams in the table and it would be no surprise if this match ended in a stalemate. The draw can be backed at 3.75 and is arguably the best option in this market. This looks a closely-matched contest but preference is to focus instead on goals.

Clean sheets unlikely for festive clash

Both teams have struggled defensively and goals look likely at Villa Park. Southampton have not kept a clean sheet for 12 league games while Aston Villa have only managed one during the same amount of matches. The last five clashes between the teams have seen both score and their current frailties at the back suggest this trend will continue.
Both teams to score is predictably short at just 1.54, which means it is worth using Betfair's Same Game Multi to bolster the odds. Aston Villa have home advantage and are fancied to avoid defeat this weekend. It looks a game of fine margins but backing both teams to score with Villa to either win or draw appeals at 2.09.

Opta Stat

Ings is Southampton's top Premier League goalscorer with nine goals and could become just the third player to reach double figures for the club before Christmas in a season in the competition. Ings is 5/4 to score a 10th goal on Saturday.

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