Aston Villa are seeking their first away win of the season against a Norwich team that have been hit by injuries, and Alan Dudman is finding it hard to split the promoted pair...
"They are fairly evenly matched in terms of points and league position, and backing the Draw also gives us the option of trading considering Villa's knack of throwing away a lead."
Norwich City v Aston Villa
Canaries struggling since City blitz
It's been a tough start to life in the Premier League for Norwich City, but they have managed to come through a testing run of matches with six points. They currently lie in 17th position, which considering their brutal fixture list against the Champion League holders (Liverpool), the English title winners (Manchester City) and the Europa League champions (Chelsea), its not the worst start to a campaign.
However, with that trio quite early on, I suspect Canaries boss Daniel Farke was tempted to throw the random fixture generator out of the window. Much like The Who did with TV sets back in the 1960s.
The Who incidentally recorded a rather underwhelming album late in their career called "It's Hard". Which sums up the last two games for City - a pair of 2-0 losses against Crystal Palace and Burnley.
Farke's men really struggled with Burnley's direct approach, whilst the Palace defeat wasn't a shock, as they are a handy side with a good record at Selhurst .
Perhaps those two defeats were caused by the monumental efforts and hangover from beating Manchester City 3-2 at Carrow Road last month. They hardly had any possession in that game (and they shouldn't have expected any), but they took full advantage of some poor defending from Pep Guardiola's side - especially from Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones. The three points on that glorious afternoon in Norfolk took the Green & Yellows to the dizzy heights of 12th.
I admired the words from Farke that day; he said he wanted to "give it a go", and they certainly did with a patched up side.
And it's those injuries that are now biting. The German coach will be keen to have bodies back for this, but ten senior players were missing from the Burnley defeat with first-choice keeper Tim Krul even injuring his back in the warm-up.
Smith out for revenge against Farke
Whilst Norwich spent the small change sum of just £1.4million on players over the summer, Dean Smith shopped, shopped and shopped to the tune of £145m - a staggering outlay for a newly promoted club.
Villa have the look of a team that has a brighter long-term future; and they have been a bit unlucky in not picking up a single point on the road this season.
Their 3-1 defeat at Spurs on the opening day of the season was harsh as they conceded goals on 73, 86 and 90 minutes. Like Norwich against Manchester City, they had very little of the ball that day with just 29% possession, but they were very well organised defensively and the Londoners really struggled to break them down until those late goals.
The late goals appeared again in their 3-2 defeat against Arsenal at the Emirates. John McGinn showed his knack again of scoring for Villa, but they conceded on 81 and 84 minutes to lose a winning a position.
That is clearly a problem that Smith needs to sort out, as they have dropped a league-high eight points from winning positions so far in the Premier League - whilst 50% of comeback wins in the top flight have come against the Villains.
The visitors however have brighter team news than their opponents; as Tyrone Mings, Henri Lansbury and Matt Targett could all return to the squad and tend to line-up in a 4-1-4-1 with Wesley playing as a lone forward.
Hard to split them, so take the bigger odds on Draw
With Norwich losing five of their opening seven matches, the [2.44] Match Odds price is about right. They would be far shorter if this game was straight off the back of the Man City success, but the price reflects how they have failed to discover their attacking touch since that heady 3-2 victory.
If you are a backer of the hosts, you have onside a team that has a good scoring record on home soil according to Opta: Norwich have scored at least twice in 17 of their last 18 league games, a record maintained despite the ever-increasing injury list. At home; they are W2-D0-L1.
The price is fair on the hosts, and the case can be made, but I really am worried about the injuries which is slightly holding me back.
Villa pushing near [3.0] is a bit more like it. So were the comments of Dean Smith this week with a bit of fighting talk. He said: "One thing, in the two results they had against us last season, they haven't played against this Aston Villa yet."
Smith might be aware that he has never won against Norwich in five attempts during his managerial career, and one painful one was losing at Villa Park last season that saw the Canaries clinch the Championship title. That's not the only stat that is a little off-putting in terms of playing at [3.0] for the away victory. The second is that Villa have lost their last ten away games in the Premier League - which is their worst run since 1924.
The sensible play for me is to take the Draw at [3.75] to [3.8], which is a little bigger than the norm for a stalemate. Both can defend quite deep, and it will be a totally different game to when both have faced 'Big Six' teams, on the counter-attack. They are fairly evenly matched in terms of points and league position, and backing the Draw also gives us the option of trading considering Villa's knack of throwing away a lead.
We can also use the HT/FT market, with the Draw/Draw priced up at an attractive [6.40].
Market taking no chances with Over 2.5 price
The market on Thursday evening was predicting goals - with the Over 2.5 bet priced-up at a measly [1.61]. I am no fan of a bet at those odds, but the stats have squeezed that. I outlined previously the Norwich record of scoring at least twice in 17 of their last 18 league games at Carrow Road, whilst all three matches on home soil this term would have seen backers of that bet collect comfortably with scorelines of 3-1, 2-3 and 3-2.
So the [1.61] price is understandable, especially with Villa hitting 2/3 with the bet too.
I'll probably shy away from that. The Under 2.5 trades at around [2.58].
If you are looking for a goalscoring bet, Teemu Pukki is the obvious one and was chalked up at [5.0] as First Goalscorer earlier this week, and he'll be looking to add to his five goals in three home matches this term. Fellow attacker Todd Cantwell is around [14.0] and has adjusted to life well in the Premier League with two goals and two assists, but he can be a little wasteful in possession.
For more tips and insight on the weekend action, watch the latest Football...Only Bettor podcast, as host Caroline Barker is joined by Kevin Hatchard, Andy Brassell and Infogol's Jake Osgathorpe to discuss all the best betting angles
Alan Dudman's Premier League P&L
Back The Draw @ [3.8] Norwich v Aston Villa