Aston Villa v Sheff Utd: Hosts can get better of blunt Blades

Aston Villa can open their Premier League campaign with three points against Sheffield United, says Dave Tindall...

Aston Villa v Sheff Utd
Monday, 18:00
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Villa looking to maintain momentum

Aston Villa were one of the four clubs who didn't see Premier League action in Match Week 1 so the best form guide we have is from the end of last season.

And if that's the case, confidence should be high in the home camp.

Dean Smith's side were big odds-on to go down after taking just two points from six games when lockdown was lifted. And it could have been even worse.

In this very fixture, they emerged with a 0-0 draw after the visitors were denied an obvious goal with the ball over the line following a free-kick. However, the technology failed, there was no buzz of Michael Oliver's watch and play carried on.

But after a trio of admittedly understandable defeats to Wolves, Liverpool and Man Utd, Villa took 10 points from their final four games to stay up by a single point. The tally was low (35) but it was mission accomplished.

As well as being able to use that as a springboard, the feelgood factor has been strengthened by tying down talisman Jack Grealish to a new deal and the arrivals of goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, striker Ollie Watkins and defender Matty Cash.

New players have to be blended in but Villa scored pre-season wins over Manchester United and Arsenal and Grealish and Watkins were on target as they beat Burton 3-1 in the EFL Trophy on Tuesday.

Blades need to sharpen up

Sheffield United have already tasted Premier League action this season and it was certainly not the start they wanted.

The Blades actually made a disastrous beginning when falling 2-0 behind to Wolves after just six minutes and, although they dug in, that's how it stayed.

The boot was on the other foot when they netted after four minutes of their EFL Trophy tie against Burnley but the hosts hit back and United lost on penalties.

For punters, the big thing to decide is whether this should be taken in isolation or is it a sign that their poor finish to the previous campaign has started a downward trend that they can't reverse?

Europe looked a strong possibility at one point but five defeats after the lockdown left them in ninth; still a fantastic effort but there was just a tinge of disappointment after the late-season tail-off.

Market favours Villa

In a contrast to last season, it's the hosts who head the betting.

There's been a move already and Aston Villa are 2.76 to bank all three points. Sheffield United are 2.94 to bounce back with a win while The Draw is 3.30.

Even in the last troubled season, Villa won the second most amount of home games (7) in the bottom half. By contrast, Sheffield United managed only the same number of away wins (4) as relegated Bournemouth.

What's more, Chris Wilder's men lost four of their final five road trips so there's an air of 'poor travellers' trying to creep in.

There's lots to admire about Sheffield United but I sense a possible case of second-season-itis and, for now, the mojo is with Villa.

I'll back the hosts at 2.76.

Hard to argue against Unders

Immediately, this seems like a game of few goals and the market reflects that though. Under 2.5 goals is just 1.71 while Over 2.5 is 2.32.

There were no goals in this fixture last season and even though there should have been one (dodgy technology wiped it out), it was a game of few chances.

The Blades scored just twice in their final six away fixtures of last season while Villa managed a puny 22 home goals in the 2019/20 campaign. They'll score more this time but this isn't a market I'm interested in this week.

Watkins and Grealish can make their mark

No player scored more league goals in the top four tiers of English football last season than Ollie Watkins.

And I'll back the Villa striker to score a debut Premier League goal at 2.98.

After netting in pre-season, his official tally is already up and running after a first-half strike at Burton in midweek.

Jack Grealish also scored in that game and I can't resist a punt on the skipper at 7.20.

He bagged a crucial goal in Villa's final game last season and banked 10 overall in 41 games.

Opta Stat

Aston Villa won both of their final two home league games of the 2019-20 campaign; they last won three consecutive home Premier League matches back in October 2007 under the management of Martin O'Neill.

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