Aston Villa travel to west London on Monday evening, and Alan Dudman is backing Dean Smith's side to take the points against Fulham....
"Set-pieces and long balls look a problem, and given that Villa have scored seven of their last nine that way, Fulham might have one or two issues."
Fulham v Aston Villa
Monday 28th September, kickoff 17:45
Live on Sky Sports Premier League
Tough start to Premier League for Parker's new boys
The return to the Premier League has been something of a rude awakening for Scott Parker's Fulham in their two games back. Heavy defeats to both Arsenal (0-3) and Leeds United (4-3) leaves the west Londoners seeking their first win. However, it's hard to be confident about a defence that looks ready to concede at any moment.
They shipped 48 in the Championship last term, and they've been badly exposed at the back in the pair of matches mentioned.
Parker post-Arsenal said that it was a "learning lesson" and that his team were going to "lose more than we win". And whilst it's good to hear a frank and honest assessment, Fulham might need to score four or five just to win a game, which at a new level for them, will be impossible.
Last weekend's defeat at Elland Road actually saw them beat Leeds on the xG model with a figure of 1.59, but again Parker was honest, calling his team "too nice".
Smith's signings could keep them safe again
Dean Smith's Villa finished 17th last term in the top-flight, and with some canny transfer business, they could improve on that. Smith believes his team are of "higher quality" this season, whilst they look more aggressive at the back.
Once again they've spent a few quid, but the £88million has gone on two young players with sell-on value with Matty Cash and Ollie Watkins. New forward Bertrand Traore is a good addition, whilst goalkeeper Emi Martinez got his Villa career off to the perfect start last week against Sheffield United.
The Blades went down to 10-men in that early, and they attempted a set-up with two banks of four to stifle Villa, so we can't take too much from that into Monday - as the game at Craven Cottage will be a totally different set-up.
The visitors need to improve on their record in London, though, as they have collected just one point from their last 30 available in Premier League matches.
Fulham have won six of their last eight meetings with Villa in all competitions, but even with that Opta stat, I am not in a mad rush to take the 2/12.98 on offer for a home win.
They cannot afford to defend in the same slack way as they did last weekend against Leeds. Match Of The Day pundit Danny Murphy tore them apart in the evening by describing their tracking back and marking "like a kids' game". It wasn't exactly textbook with them going four versus four at the top of pitch - and they won't last long in the league if they carry on.
Set-pieces and long balls look a problem, and given that Villa have scored seven of their last nine that way, Fulham might have one or two issues. Likewise the ball over the top, with which they were exposed against Leeds. The visitors have Tyrone Mings at the back, who not only wins plenty of headers, but he can hit the direct and diagonal pass to cause problems for the hosts.
It's a game I see Villa winning, but so do the layers as they were available to back by Saturday at 13/82.66.
Incidentally; layers of the draw might be interested to take on the 3.45 price as according to Opta, none of Fulham's last 21 Premier League games have finished level - shipping 45 goals in the process. Personally it's not a bet, or a price for me, but every market needs a layer.
Hosts look vulnerable at the back - so seek out goals
With Fulham's defending so far, my first instinct was goals. There are plenty of options to explore for this, and the Over 2.5 Goals was surprisingly bigger than the Under price at 21/202.06. We can also add to the instinct with hard facts, as the visitors haven't kept a clean sheet in any of their last 26 away games in the top-flight.
I think we can go a little higher here; the Over 3.5 at 14/53.8 and 4.5 7/18.20 could be both be played.
The not-so-daring approach could point us towards the Both Teams To Score, with the 'Yes' chalked up at 5/61.87. I do see Villa having some joy from set-pieces, especially with Conor Hourihane's deliveries, and an early goal will put pressure on the hosts to get something from the game.
Watkins adds to attacking options with Grealish
Brentford's new forward Ollie Watkins has bagged a couple of goals in the EFL Cup and he gives Smith more options up front, as does fellow new boy Bertrand Traore - who netted in the League Cup too against Bristol City.
Skipper Jack Grealish at 7/24.7 in the To Score market is worth a look as he was the top-scorer last term with eight. I've spotted an interesting bet with the Oddsboost on the Sportsbook, as the midfielder has been boosted out to 13/2 from 11/2 to have two or more shots on target.
Fulham are overly-reliant on Aleksander Mitrovic - who has scored 39% of his team's league goals. His two at Leeds (a great header and a penalty) put him in the frame at 8/52.56.
Back Aston Villa to win @ 13/82.66
Back Over 3.5 Goals @ 14/53.8