Sheffield United v Aston Villa: Back Lundstram to find the net
Andy Schooler expects these two promoted sides to be entertaining on Saturday and he's backing Blades star John Lundstram to find the target.
Sheffield United v Aston Villa Saturday December 14, 15:00
One of the most refreshing things about this season's Premier League has been the approach taken by the three promoted teams.
None of the trio has come with the primary attitude of trying to stop opponents from playing, all three managers trusting their team to attack and give as good as they get.
Two of them meet at Bramall Lane on Saturday and it is Sheffield United who start the favourites following a fine start to the season.
Of the three new arrivals in the top flight, they've been the ones to find the right balance between defence and attack and they subsequently sit a highly-impressive eighth as the season approaches its halfway point.
They remain unbeaten away, although it has been more of a struggle at home where they've actually lost more than they've won (four defeats, three wins).
In the last game at Bramall Lane, Newcastle departed as 2-0 winners, although the Blades bounced back last week with a come-from-behind victory at Norwich.
That ability to recover has been particularly noteworthy - Chris Wilder's men are yet to lose back-to-back games and come into this one having lost just one of their last nine matches.
Villa full of goals
Aston Villa have found things much tougher. They've already lost back-to-back on four occasions and arrive here having lost their previous two.
They've scored plenty of goals - a factor which may well prove decisive in the end-of-season standings - but keeping them out has been difficult to say the least.
Villa have actually netted more goals (23) than any side in the bottom half and only the top four have scored more away from home.
But despite that latter fact, no team has claimed fewer points on their travels and that says much about a shaky defence.
They've conceded at least twice in six of their eight away games so it's no wonder they are struggling to collect points and the loss of England international Tyrone Mings to injury for this one is hardly going to help matters.
Still, their defensive problems don't appear to have influenced Dean Smith's philosophy, at least not yet, and going forward they should carry a threat.
Jack Grealish and John McGinn have been influential in that, their runs from midfield troubling numerous opponents so far. Expect them to affect this game too.
In terms of the match odds, I'd be slightly wary of backing the hosts at 1.93 given that home record, plus the fact that they've actually only won five of their 16 games so far.
That said, Villa's record of one win on the road (at a Norwich team who were woeful that day) is hardly making me rush to back them at 4.40.
If pushed, I'd probably plump for the draw at [3.85] but other bets in the sub-markets make greater appeal.
Goals look likely
I'm tempted by over 2.5 goals at 1.91 but while Villa's games have been free-scoring affairs (75% have seen three goals or more), it's the opposite when it comes to the more-solid Blades (31%).
I feel the attacks may win the day but am not confident enough to get involved at the price.
Lundstram can find target
Instead I'll use my goal theory to back a player who has caught the eye in the first half of the campaign to score, namely midfielder John Lundstram.
He's scored three times in 16 games so far, all at Bramall Lane, and he's getting into some good, advanced positions from his role on the right side of midfield.
Only David McGoldrick in the Blades' squad is averaging more shots per game and he will surely be looking to make the most of the gaps which have often appeared in the Villa defence.
He's fired off 10 shots in his last three home games, scoring twice, and only Lys Mousset has more goals for the club so far.
The one concern would be if he ends up tracking back too much to deal with Grealish and McGinn (most likely the former on his side) but you'd expect the home side to be on the front foot more.
He's 4.10 to score at any time which looks worth a dabble.
Follow the fast starters
Secondly, I return to statistic I mentioned a few weeks ago about the Villa - their propensity for an early goal.
They've led at half time in seven of their 16 games so far (there's potential for a second-half lay there), scoring in the first half of 11 of them.
Yet you can get 6/4 with the Sportsbook about them scoring before the break in the over/under first half away team goals market.
As already touched upon, Sheffield United have been pretty solid defensively but Villa have regularly scored in the first 45 minutes against the league's best defences - Leicester, Liverpool, Wolves and Manchester United among them - so this looks a price which is rather big.
Only Norwich, Southampton and West Ham (5 each) have lost more Premier League home games than Sheffield United this season (4). Indeed, only Watford (44.4%) and West Ham (43.8%) have won a lower share of their Premier League points at home than the Blades this season (45.5%).