There's a West Midlands derby to look forward to on Saturday evening as Aston Villa and Wolves go head-to-head. Mark O'Haire previews the encounter.
"Remarkably, only Man City have kept more clean sheets than Aston Villa with the hosts’ impressive rearguard leading to a surplus of successful Both Teams To Score selections"
Aston Villa v Wolves
Saturday March 6, 17:30
Smith unimpressed by Villa's midweek showing
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith lamented his side for "throwing away points" against Sheffield United after the Blades held on for a 1-0 victory in Wednesday night's showdown at Bramall Lane. David McGoldrick scored the only goal of the game before half-time with Villa failing to break down 10 men following Phil Jagielka's 57th-minute sending off for the hosts.
Dissecting the Villains' defeat at the hands of the Premier League's bottom club, Smith said: "It was a very, very frustrating game from our point of view. We had the best chances in the first half and ended up going in a goal down. I can't remember Emi (Martinez) being worked at all throughout the game, in all honesty, and then we conceded a really poor goal."
Smith named an unchanged team following the weekend's win at Leeds with Ross Barkley, Douglas Luiz and Morgan Sanson all on the bench. However, skipper Jack Grealish is expected to return to the squad here. Matty Cash and Kortney Hause are also edging closer to full fitness but the Wolves showdown could come a week too early for the defensive pair.
Wolves unbeaten run ended at The Etihad
Wolves were unable to repeat last season's standout success at Manchester City when visiting The Etihad on Tuesday night. The Old Gold had looked on course for ending the table-toppers' record-breaking winning streak when Conor Coady equalised for his first Premier League goal, but three City goals inside the final 10 minutes settled matters.
Coady scored with their first touch inside the City box in the 61st minute. Prior to then Rui Patricio had been performing a stunning solo act, denying Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Mahrez to ensure Leander Dendoncker's 15th minute own goal remained the only difference between the teams in a spirited effort from Nuno Espirito Santo's side.
Post-match, Nuno said: "First half we were organised but no fight, there was a lot of possession from City. Second half we had more pressing, were higher up the pitch and creating threats - which we sustained for a spell of the game. The boys were solid and compact. The game went by, but we were not able to sustain this and we got punished."
Wolves suffered only their second league loss in seven meetings with regional rivals Aston Villa during a hot-tempered reverse encounter back in December. The Old still hold a W4-D1-L2 supremacy in head-to-head meetings with the Villains since 2016/17 - included in that recent run was a 1-0 Villa Park victory for Wanderers in this fixture last season.
Aston Villa's 2.447/5 transformation since surviving relegation on the final day of last season has been startling, with Dean Smith's charges comfortably perched inside the top-half. Even so, the Villains have been blighted by inconsistency since Boxing Day (W4-D2-L6) with home form proving particularly problematic following a fine start (W3-D1-L5) to the campaign.
Wolves' 3.259/4 five match unbeaten run (W3-D2-L0) was ended at The Etihad in midweek with the Old Gold dispelling any potential relegation concerns that lingered following a rough winter. Nuno Espirito Santo's squad boast a W9-D6-L6 return when excluding the top-four across all venues, including a reasonable W4-D3-L3 record on the road.
Remarkably, only Man City (15) have kept more clean sheets than Aston Villa (13) in 2020/21 with the hosts' impressive rearguard leading to a surplus of successful Both Teams To Score 1.9010/11 selections. Indeed, just 9/25 (36%) of Villa's outings have delivered goals at both ends, whilst recent meetings with Wolves have also been shy on goalmouth action.
The Old Gold have proven surprisingly solid for BTTS backers this term, yet underlying performance data points to much tighter affairs. In fact, only Chelsea's contests are featuring fewer open play opportunities over the last eight encounters than Wolves, and with guests averaging fewer than a goal per-game away, I'm happy to oppose goals.
Backing 'No' in the Both Teams To Score market is odds-against at 2.0621/20 and holds plenty of appeal.
Mark's 2020/21 Profit/Loss
Staked: 115.00 pts
Returned: 118.05 pts