Aston Villa v Newcastle
Saturday August 23, 12:45
Live on BT Sport 1
Not many punters would have foreseen an Aston Villa away win on the opening weekend travelling to the notoriously stubborn Stoke.
But that's what transpired as Paul Lambert's side put in a performance with the perfect mix of attacking threat and defensive stability. Ron Vlaar was majestic at the heart of the back four, while Andreas Weimann grabbed the winner.
Transforming that kind of form to Villa Park proved problematic last season, highlighted by the fact the Villans only won six of their 19 home matches, a record that was the fourth worst in terms of home form in the entire division.
Christian Benteke's injury remains a concern as he looks set to be out until October but Joe Cole and Carlos Sanchez are set to make their competitive Aston Villa debuts this weekend; Cole missed last week's match as he was recovering from a thigh injury while Sanchez had only just completed his move from Elche.
Both should add a different dimension to the Villa midfield, especially Sanchez, who is a real midfield terrier and showed his capabilities at the World Cup for Colombia, where he featured in four of their five games.
A 2-0 defeat usually shouldn't bring too much hope for followers of a team, but the way Newcastle performed against a ruthless Manchester City last weekend at St James' Park was full of promise.
Their plethora of new signings seemed to gel well and the Toon army would have left the stadium feeling pretty positive about the upcoming season.
Siem de Jong, who has been vice captain by Alan Pardew after impressing in pre-season, is in line for his Newcastle debut after recovering from a calf injury while striker Facundo Ferreyra is available but Cheick Tiote remains sidelined.
History shows that Newcastle have the edge in this fixture, to the extent that Villa have lost more games at home to Newcastle in the Premier League than they have won.
When you throw in the home side's recent showings at Villa Park (15 home wins in the last 57), they'll be plenty putting faith in the 3.052/1 for another successful Toon raid in the Midlands.
It's not a bet that appeals to me though, especially at that price, purely on the basis that Newcastle have yet to show that they have fully overcome their goalscoring problems from last season.
Their only goal in the last five away games was an own goal by Liverpool's Martin Skrtel in the final game of last season.
Villa can be backed at 2.68/5, which, if pushed for a bet on this market, would be my selection.
However, one swallow doesn't make a summer and although they looked a stern outfit at the Britannia, consistency isn't one of this young side's attributes. The Draw is a 3.45 chance. I'll be swerving this market though. Value lies elsewhere.
Aston Villa Clean Sheet?
As highlighted above, Newcastle have problems in front of goal and Aston Villa have a player at centre half that was arguably the best player in his position at the World Cup.
It's surprised me that no one has decided to make a swoop for Vlaar, who was exceptional for the Netherlands in Brazil, and judging by his performance against Stoke, he is in the same vein of form.
If you include the World Cup, Vlaar has kept five clean sheets in his last six competitive matches and with the struggles in the Newcastle front-line, I'm willing to steam into the 3.259/4 about Villa's main man and his defensive counterparts keeping the Toon strike force at bay.
There were plenty of plaudits for the way Newcastle attacked against City with Remy Cabella looking a tricky player to deal with but Newcastle had 12 shots and none were on target. This suggests that confidence is low and they have yet to really adapt fully to 14-goal Loic Remy returning to QPR over the summer.
Back Aston Villa to keep a clean sheet @ 3.259/4 (2pts)