Aston Villa v Fulham: Jack Grealish's return could hand edge to hosts

Jack Grealish
Aston Villa playmaker Jack Grealish returned to training during the international break

Aston Villa host Fulham this weekend and Simon Mail thinks the potential return of Jack Grealish could inspire the hosts...

"In 11 of Villa's 12 league wins this season, there were no more than three goals and another low-scoring victory looks the bet this weekend."

Aston Villa v Fulham
Sunday, 16:30
Live on Sky Sports Premier League

Villa need Grealish's creativity to lift form

Aston Villa have been one of the most improved teams this season with Dean Smith's side occupying a place in the top half throughout this season. Villa have been transformed from the team which escaped relegation on the final day of last season, with summer signing Ollie Watkins' form rewarded with a goal on his England debut during the international break.

Villa's recent form has dipped but this has coincided with Jack Grealish's absence due to a leg injury.

England playmaker Grealish has been out since February and Villa have only won one of their last six matches.

His return is a huge boost for Smith's team as Villa look to finish the season strongly. In their last match, Villa were beaten 2-0 at home to Tottenham.

Fulham face crucial run in survival bid

Fulham were the favourites for relegation after their promotion from the Championship last season but Scott Parker's side still have realistic hopes of staying up. The Cottagers appeared to be overwhelmed in the opening weeks but there is no doubt they have significantly improved and were difficult to beat across the winter.

Third-bottom Fulham are within two points of Newcastle, having played one game more, to set up the possibility of a survival decider between the teams at Craven Cottage on the final day of the season. Fulham won at champions Liverpool last month but followed that with home defeats against Manchester City and Leeds. Their 2-1 loss against Marcelo Bielsa's side was a missed opportunity with Parker critical of his side's performance.

scott parker.jpg

Villa narrow favourites for victory

Aston Villa are 2.35/4 favourites for this weekend's match against Fulham. The hosts have struggled lately but the return of Grealish is a huge boost and his creativity could tip this game in their favour. Villa eased to a 3-0 win at Fulham in September with Grealish opening the scoring.

Fulham are 3.55 to claim another vital win in their battle to avoid the drop. The visitors have to be respected after an eight-game unbeaten run in the league stretching back to December. But Fulham appeared to drop their standards before the international break and could be facing Villa at a bad time.

The draw can be backed at 3.412/5 and this has to be considered based on Fulham's record. Parker's side have drawn a joint league high 11 matches this season, with seven of those coming on the road. Villa have been held five times and are generally more boom or bust. On balance, the hosts are fancied to edge this contest but their price in this market is nothing to get excited about.

High-scoring contest looks unlikely

With Aston Villa the more likely winners, it is worth looking at alternative markets to boost the odds on a home victory.

Fulham have struggled for goals, netting just 23 in 30 games, with their strength based on their defensive solidity.

Their last ten matches have all produced no more than three goals and it would be a surprise if this weekend broke the trend.

Aston Villa have also been strong at the back with only Man City and Chelsea conceding fewer goals in the league. In 11 of Villa's 12 league wins this season, there were no more than three goals and another low-scoring victory looks the bet this weekend. Their last eight matches have all seen fewer than four goals scored. Combining a Villa win with under 3.5 goals inflates the odds to a more appealing 2.8.

Opta Stat

Eleven of Aston Villa's 12 Premier League wins this season have seen them keep a clean sheet, with the exception being their 7-2 victory over Liverpool in October. Villa to win with a clean sheet is 13/5.

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

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