Aston Villa v Tottenham
Sunday 21 March, 19:30
Live on Sky Sports
Grealish's absence has been decisive for Villa
Any team would suffer without their best player, but the effect of Jack Grealish's shin injury on Aston Villa's form has been particularly acute. Grealish hasn't played for over a month, and Villa have taken just five points from the five outings without their talismanic midfielder. Although the primary goal of survival has been achieved with room to spare, any hopes of a bonus European qualification are fading.
What's keeping Villa in the mix in games is their miserly defence. Dean Smith's outfit have conceded just 28 goals in 27 league matches, a massive improvement on last term, which saw them leak 67 goals across the whole top-flight campaign.
They have racked up a whopping 14 clean sheets in the Premier League, and the arrival of former Arsenal keeper Emi Martinez has proven to be a big boost.
Villa's home form is however a big concern. They have lost five of their last ten at Villa Park, and have won just three games in that spell. They have failed to score four times across those ten matches, and they have only scored multiple goals on three occasions. Only 17 of their 41 points this term have been collected at home.
Grealish is still a doubt to face the club he once came very close to joining, despite Smith's positive proclamations. Defender Kortney Hause is still struggling with a foot injury.
Crestfallen Spurs must bounce back quickly
As Dinamo Zagreb's players gleefully sprinted into each other's arms, some with tears glistening in their eyes, Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho looked like a man whose faith had been shaken. Two-legged European ties are his thing, his speciality. This is a man who has led Porto and Inter Milan to Champions League glory, a coach who has won the UEFA Cup with Porto and the Europa League with Manchester United.
And yet his pragmatic approach, his willingness to protect a 2-0 first-leg lead, had failed utterly. When Dinamo took the initiative, Tottenham found that having placed the car in second gear, they couldn't shift the stick. Mislav Orsic stole the show with a hat-trick, and Dinamo stole the tie with a 3-0 victory. Make no mistake, this is a stain on Mourinho's European record that won't wash out any time soon. Mourinho slammed his players' attitude and lack of desire after the game, but it was the post-match interview of skipper Hugo Lloris that raised the eyebrow, as it hinted at far deeper problems within the squad.
Tottenham's careless North London derby defeat at Arsenal last weekend means they go into this weekend six points off the top four, and they haven't beaten a fellow top-half side in 2021. On the road in the PL, they have won just two of their last 10, and have lost four of the last five.
Mourinho may make several changes after a return journey to Zagreb and Thursday's 120-minute horror show. Heung-Min Son is expected to miss out with a hamstring problem, while Erik Lamela is suspended after his red card against Arsenal.
Neither team can be trusted to win
I'm not entirely convinced by the claims of either side here. Villa have looked pretty anaemic without Grealish, and even if he features, he won't be fully fit. Villa's home form is poor, and yet Spurs have been hugely disappointing lately on their travels, and are carrying the baggage of Thursday's debacle.
Villa are 3.185/40 in the Match Odds market, and Spurs at 2.56/4, but I'm looking elsewhere for my bet.
Goals in short supply
Villa's solid defending and recent issues in front of goal bring the No bet in the Both Teams To Score market into play here at 2.3811/8. That wager has paid out in 17 of Villa's 27 top-flight matches, and it has landed in half of Tottenham's league games. Tottenham will be terrified of losing again, while Villa are also fairly pragmatic under the likeable Smith.
Alternatively you could plump for Under 2.5 Goals at 2.021/1. That bet has landed in seven of Villa's last nine games.
Punchy Pierre-Emile may get carded
Spurs midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg missed Thursday's defeat because of suspension, so he'll be pumped up and raring to go. Keep an eye on the team news, and if Grealish and Hojbjerg both start, back Hojbjerg to be shown a card at 2.8815/8. Grealish is the most fouled player in the Premier League by quite some distance, and Hojbjerg has picked up six yellow cards in the league this season, committing the most fouls in the division.