Aston Villa are having a dreadful season, and Kevin Hatchard expects Crystal Palace to push them further into the mire...
"Aston Villa have collected a pitiful three points from nine home games, while Palace have racked up five wins on the road already."
Aston Villa v Crystal Palace
Tuesday January 12, 19:45
Earlier in my career I used to regularly cover Midlands football, hopping between Villa Park, Molineux, St Andrew's and the Hawthorns, the latter being the only ground where extreme cold has stopped me from writing a match report because I couldn't move my fingers. During this time I learned that Villa fans are by and large a realistic bunch, no strangers to a pained sigh and a shrug of the shoulders. They've known for several seasons that the club has been pushing its luck, so this disastrous campaign hasn't come as a huge surprise.
Rock-bottom Villa do still have time and opportunity to avoid the drop. They are 11 points adrift of safety, and there are still 54 points to fight for, but there is little evidence to suggest an extraordinary fightback is on the cards. Villa have won just once in the Premier League all campaign, which is why they are 1.041/25 in the Relegation market, and the weekend's 1-1 draw at lower league Wycombe in the FA Cup left you wondering which team was the more relieved to secure a replay.
French coach Remi Garde is a thoughtful guy who did sterling work on a budget at Lyon, and he appears desperate to do well, but he has the air of a man who is trying to mop up a lake with a J-cloth. Since his arrival, Garde has seen his team take just four points from nine league games, and they haven't scored more than once in any of those outings.
Villa skipper Micah Richards was man enough to try and placate angry fans at the weekend, and he should be fit despite a foot injury. Gabby Agbonlahor has a back problem, while maverick midfielder Jack Grealish has tonsilitis.
While Villa are short on confidence and quality, Crystal Palace have both in spades. Manager Alan Pardew can come off as a bit smug, but in fairness he has earned the right to push out his chest. The Eagles are just five points off the top four, and they are above Liverpool, Everton and Chelsea in the standings.
Palace are particularly impressive on the road, having won five and lost just two of their nine away games. They have leaked just seven goals on their travels, the best record in the entire division. Palace's speed and skill on the counter-attack gives them an edge, and it's worth noting that they have scored at least twice in four of their road matches this term.
At the weekend Palace picked up a highly impressive FA Cup win at Southampton, but in the Premier League they need a bit of a pick-me-up. Pardew's men haven't scored in any of their last three games (they are looking to sign an attacking player this month), and last time out they were humbled 3-0 at home by Chelsea.
Striker Connor Wickham is back in training after a calf problem, but wing wizard Yannick Bolasie is still sidelined. Yohan Cabaye will be carefully monitored after picking up a knock at Southampton.
Palace are 2.568/5 to win this, and I think that's a big price against a hapless Villa side. However, Palace are misfiring in front of goal, so we can give ourselves a bit of insurance by backing the visitors Draw No Bet at 1.84/5. Villa haven't won a single home game, and have the worst home record in the Premier League.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
Under 2.5 Goals is trading at 1.695/7, and it's not hard to see why. Six of Garde's nine league games in charge have featured fewer than three goals, Villa have scored just six goals at home, and Palace have conceded just seven on the road.
Both Teams To Score?
If you want a slightly bigger price you could back No in the Both Teams To Score market at 1.9110/11. 11 of Palace's last 16 Premier League games have seen at least one side draw a blank, and Villa have failed to score in five of their nine home games.
Back Crystal Palace Draw No Bet at 1.84/5