Only Man City have more points than Villa in 2023
Brighton outperformed City on xGF since De Zerbi arrival
Aston Villa v Brighton
Saturday 30 September, 12:30
Live on TNT Sports
Emery effect is pushing Villa along
When Aston Villa hired Unai Emery to replace the underperforming Steven Gerrard, they hired a fiercely ambitious and obsessive coach. They also hired a proven winner, someone who had won the UEFA Europa League four times across two different clubs. The fact that Emery delivered European qualification in his first season is in-keeping with his tremendous body of work.
If you want Emery's impact underlined, you need only look at the Premier League table for points collected in the calendar year of 2023. Villa have amassed 55 points since the turn of the year, with only the European and English champions Manchester City collecting more. Villa's owners matched their coach's ambitions in the transfer market too, with the acquisition of Sapin centre-back Pau Torres and France forward Moussa Diaby catching the eye and quickening the pulse.
However, it's not an entirely rosy picture. A midweek home defeat to Everton saw the Villains tumble out of the League Cup, a jarring result given that Villa had recently won their PL home game against the Toffees 4-0. There is also some repair work to be done in the Europa Conference League, after Emery's side slipped to a 3-2 opening defeat at Polish giants Legia Warsaw.
Alex Moreno is approaching full fitness, but Lucas Digne may still get the nod at left-back. Leon Bailey limped out of the defeat to Everton, and is a doubt here. Tyrone Mings and Emi Buendia are long-term injury victims.
Brighton have hit rare squall in cup competitions
Although Brighton have claimed five Premier League wins from six and could go top of the table with a win on Saturday lunchtime, Roberto De Zerbi's swashbuckling side have hit a sticky patch in cup matches. They seemed a little ragged and over-excited in their clumsy 3-2 home defeat to AEK Athens in the Europa League last week. The excitement was warranted, given that the clash with the Greek champions was the Seagulls first ever competitive match in continental competition.
A 1-0 defeat at Chelsea in midweek ended Brighton's involvement in the League Cup, and although De Zerbi made changes to his line-up, he insisted it was a strong enough line-up to beat the Blues at Stamford Bridge. Indeed, Brighton outshot Chelsea and had far more possession, but Nicolas Jackson's winner proved to be the only goal of the game.
Brighton are only two points behind Aston Villa in the table of 2023, and their progress under De Zerbi has been truly remarkable. In their five Premier League victories this season, they have scored either three goals or four goals. Brighton have won eight of their last 15 top-flight away matches, including wins at Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United. Since De Zerbi took charge, Brighton have generated a higher number of Expected Goals in the Premier League than even Manchester City.
Julio Enciso and the influential Pascal Gross are injured, while former Liverpool midfielder James Milner is battling to be fit.
Goals galore in battle of form sides
These two are dead level in the Match Odds market at 2.6413/8 apiece, and I must admit I'm struggling to separate them too. Villa have won their last nine Premier League home matches, but Brighton have shown they have no fear of going anywhere in the top division.
Instead, I'll look to goals. Six of those nine Villa home wins have featured at least three goals, as have nine of their ten competitive games overall this term. Brighton have played eight matches in all competitions this season, and seven of them have featured at least four goals, let alone three.
On that basis, I'm happy to start off a Bet Builder with an Over 2.5 Goals wager. I'll add in Over 6.5 Corners (both teams' games this term average more than eight) and also I'll back Ollie Watkins to have a shot on target. Watkins averaged 1.3 shots on target per 90 last season, and this term his average is still a healthy 0.9. He has managed at least one effort on target in three of his five Premier League appearances since the start of the campaign.
That gives us a combined total of 2.0421/20, which is a nice uplift considering simply backing Over 2.5 Goals on the Exchange gives you a price of just 1.491/2.