Aston Villa v Crystal Palace
Live on BBC One
Grealish excelling for improving Villa
Aston Villa have enjoyed a strong start to the season with Dean Smith’s side sitting ninth with seven wins from their opening 12 matches. Villa have two games in hand on six of the teams above them and are only five points behind second-placed Leicester.
It is a huge transformation from the team which scrambled to avoid relegation on the final day of last season.
Villa’s latest win came last weekend as they ruined Sam Allardyce’s return to management at West Brom. The visitors’ 3-0 victory, with Anwar El Ghazi scoring twice, was their fifth win from six away matches and their seventh clean sheet of the campaign – the most in the competition. Jack Grealish has been at the forefront of Villa’s resurgence with the England midfielder providing seven assists and scoring five goals in the league.
Palace need response after Liverpool hammering
Crystal Palace head to Villa Park after a 7-0 thrashing against Liverpool at Selhurst Park. Roy Hodgson’s side were humbled by the champions’ ruthless finishing. Palace were competitive for the first half but simply had no answer to Liverpool’s attack as they conceded seven goals at home for the first time in their history.
Hodgson must lift his players for this festive clash after their demoralising defeat. Palace are 13th in the table and only one point below Villa but the Eagles need to avoid a hangover from the Liverpool trouncing. Wilfried Zaha has been their most influential player this season with the winger scoring seven goals in 12 matches. But the focus will be on tightening up at the back with their sole clean sheet in the league coming in September’s season opener with Southampton.
Aston Villa have been well backed for this match and the 2.01/1 favourites still look worth supporting for the Boxing Day clash. Villa’s attacking capability was highlighted in their 7-2 hammering of Liverpool earlier in the season and the team continue to create plenty of chances.
Although Villa drew 0-0 with Burnley in their last home game, the hosts had 27 shots with seven on target. A similar display against Palace will surely be rewarded with three points.
Palace are 3.953/1 outsiders for this fixture but there is little interest in siding with Hodgson’s side. It will be an impressive feat if the Eagles can put the Liverpool defeat behind them with an immediate win. Crystal Palace have gone 13 league matches without keeping a clean sheet and it is difficult to see them keeping out a confident Villa side.
The draw can be backed at 3.9 but Villa have only been held once in the league this season. This match pits a team flowing with belief and confidence against a side on the end of one of their heaviest defeats in history. Villa have created more chances than anyone else in the league (13.2 per match) and the hosts appeal to claim another victory.
Palace’s defensive weaknesses suggest Villa will have plenty of opportunities to score this weekend. With the pace and trickery of Ollie Watkins, Bertrand Traore and Grealish, the hosts are likely to cause Hodgson’s side plenty of problems. Four of their seven wins have seen them score at least three goals and a home victory with over 2.5 goals inflates the odds to 2.75.
Anyone taking advantage of Betfair’s offer will earn a free £10 bet when they place the same amount on a Same Game Multi this weekend. Grealish has already netted five times and the Villa star can be doubled up with a home win at 4.1. An alternative option is to side with them to win with a clean sheet. Villa have managed seven already this season and another in a victory boosts the odds to 3.48.
Follow Simon’s bets on Twitter @watfordtipster