Andrew Atherley says Aston Villa's strong record against bottom-half teams makes them a good bet at home to Sunderland on Saturday
"Villa are now unbeaten in 12 games against bottom-half teams, dating back to late January. That was the reason they escaped relegation last season and it should help to push them higher up the table now."
Back Aston Villa to beat Sunderland at 21/1
Aston Villa have an open style of play that leaves them vulnerable against the better sides in the Premier League, but it is a different story against more limited opponents and they can prove the point in their home match against Sunderland on Saturday.
A quick glance at the league table, which shows Villa's overall record of W4 D3 L5, is misleading. Their underlying form, while still weak against top-half sides, has been strong against teams from the bottom half of the table since last winter but that has been masked by a difficult early fixture list.
Villa played seven of the top eight in their opening nine games, which would have been a big test for any side, and to be 12th at this stage is quite an achievement.
Their results have been good whenever they have played weaker opposition and they are now unbeaten in 12 games against bottom-half teams, dating back to late January. That was the reason they escaped relegation last season and it should help to push them higher up the table now.
Only four of those 12 games against bottom-half teams were at home but Villa won three of them, including the 6-1 victory over Sunderland in April that brought a quick halt to Paolo Di Canio's honeymoon period at the Stadium of Light.
In the same period of Villa's improvement since late January, Sunderland have lost 17 out of 26, and more particularly 11 out of 13 on the road.
That indicates a bigger gap between the two sides than either the league table or the betting suggests, making Villa a good win bet at 2.01/1.
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The Championship is often characterised as a division where 'any side can beat anyone' but it is a false notion. Hence it is often more profitable to back the best teams in the Championship than their counterparts in the Premier League, simply because the markets tend not to put so much faith in the strength of Championship form.
Results this season indicate the elite sides are performing to a similar level in both the Premier League and the Championship. In games between the top six and bottom-half teams, the loss rate for the highflyers in the Premier League is 15% but in the Championship it is lower at just 11%. So much for the idea that the Championship is less predictable.
The top-six win rate is higher in the Premier League (68%, compared with 58% in the Championship) but the odds often compensate for the slightly greater risk in backing the Championship top six against bottom-half sides.
That is the case this weekend when leaders Burnley stand out at the available odds.
Burnley, unbeaten in nine against bottom-half teams, visit 13th-placed Huddersfield and are worth backing at 1.748/11 on the draw no bet.
Huddersfield have won only one out of seven against teams from the top half of the table, while Burnley's sole league defeat was against ninth-placed Brighton.
The other good bet in the Championship is Brighton, who are finding more consistency for Oscar Garcia with an unbeaten run of five games and can reward backers at 1.824/5 off 0 on the Asian handicap, where stakes are returned in the event of a draw (see here for an in-depth explanation of the Asian Handicap). The draw no bet, which amounts to the same bet, is slightly shorter at 1.814/5 at the time of writing.
Bournemouth have lost eight out of 11 against teams above them in the table, which indicates difficulty against ninth-placed Brighton.
2013/14 P/L (1pt per bet)