Two West Midlands sides embroiled in competitive contests at differing ends of the table meet when Aston Villa host Wolverhampton Wanderers at Villa Park in the Premier League on Saturday (7.30am ET).
Villa are currently in the relegation zone, but things are very tight down there and could easily go any way in what remains of the campaign. They are 19th, level on points with the two teams ahead of them and still in reach of at least one more above.
Dean Smith’s side rescued a late point from their trip to Newcastle on Wednesday. They had the better of things without creating all that much in front of goal, and then found themselves behind with just over 20 minutes left to play. As defeat began to look likely, substitute Ahmed Elmohamady headed home Conor Hourihane’s corner to grab a draw.
Smith expressed his satisfaction at the performance, if not at the result. It was the second point Villa have picked up since the league restart and one that edged them closer to those ahead and potential safety. They have a tough run-in that won’t make it easy for them to outscore those around them. That is something that their inferior goal difference is likely to require.
Saturday’s visit of Wolves is followed by a trip to champions elect Liverpool and then a home clash with Manchester United. Crystal Palace follow, then Everton, Arsenal and a potentially crucial final day date with West Ham, currently level on points with them.
Villa’s primary problem this season has been just how they have been in defence. They have conceded just shy of two goals per match over the course of the campaign. It is the worst record in the division and one that is largely backed up by the underlying numbers. It would be difficult for any team conceding over 17 shots per match to avoid yielding to the pressure.
Their attack has been decent, solidly mid-table, but insufficient to overcome their defensive frailties. It isn’t for nothing that Smith seems to have put a strong focus on shoring things up at the back for the final stretch of the campaign.
Relative defensive solidity was one of the keys to Wolves’ successful return to the Premier League last season. The fifth-best defensive record in the division was allied to a mid-table attack to see them to a seventh-place finish. They made things particularly hard for the Premier League’s bigger teams, with their rapid counter-attacking style providing them with the scalps of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.
That style has been fine-tuned this time around. Both top-line and underlying numbers have improved, and after a slow start to the season, Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have worked their way up into sixth place, level on points with United in fifth and four clear of Spurs in seventh. If Manchester City’s ban from European competition is upheld, the fifth place currently held by United will yield a place in next season’s Champions League.
Wolves have won two in two since the restart. They followed a 2-0 win away at West Ham with a 1-0 triumph at home to Bournemouth on Wednesday. After an even first half-hour, they took control, rattling off 10 shots to the one of their opponents and claiming all three points thanks to Raul Jimenez’s headed finish from an Adama Traore cross. It was a 15th goal for Jimenez and the 10th time he and Traore had directly combined for one.
Nuno has crafted an accomplished side who are undefeated in their last seven matches and have won four of their last five. On the back of a pair of victories over other relegation candidates, they will be confident of making it three from three against a Villa side they defeated 2-1 at Molineux earlier this season. Jimenez and Ruben Neves got the goals on that occasion in a win that was more comfortable than the final scoreline might suggest.
With all that in mind, backing Wolves to win without conceding looks a good play in this EPL game. So this is the suggested betting pick when it comes to our Aston Villa vs Wolves predictions against the main United States’ oddsmakers for this preview:
- Bet on Wolverhampton Wanderers to win to nil at Bovada Sportsbook. This should be done on their ‘match result and both teams to score’ market. Pick ‘Wolves & No’ @ +195 (almost 2/1).