Aston Villa v Sheffield United
Your Friday night viewing comes from Villa Park when in-form Aston Villa welcomes relegation threatened Sheffield United. As expected, all the focus is on the hosts after a tremendous start to the campaign, leading many to believe they are amongst the serious contenders to lift the league title. You can get around 16/1 if you believe they can achieve that mammoth outcome, whilst failure to win here would surely see that price increase.
It is difficult not to take note of Villa’s home form this season, which reads a cool eight wins out of eight in Premier League action. In all competitions, only Everton has departed triumphant after they defeated Unai Emery’s side in a September EFL Cup tie. With Arsenal and Manchester City being the latest two losers to leave Birmingham without anything to show for it, surely Sheffield United will do the same? Well, Chris Wilder has certainly had an impact since returning to the league. They may sit bottom of the table but the recent home win over Brentford at least gave hope to the fans. Defeats to Liverpool and Chelsea were to be expected 99 times out of 100.
If this was to be played at Bramall Lane then clearly you’d give them a much better chance. Mainly due to the fact Villa can be got at on the road, but they have been virtually untouchable in front of their own fans. Assuming they don’t take their opponents lightly and aren’t thinking ahead to a Boxing Day trip to Old Trafford, this should be a routine home victory. The Blades have the leakiest defence in the league, whilst only Man City have netted more times than Villa.
Villa did lose away at Nottingham Forest, but they have enjoyed comfortable wins versus Crystal Palace, Everton, Luton and Burnley, so they tend to enjoy facing those towards the bottom. With the exception of an away draw at Brighton, Sheffield United have lost every other meeting with teams positioned 11th or above, but we’re going to have to get creative to find a good enough angle to get involved in this.
I believe the player prop market is one way of doing that, especially as there is a nice little price I have found. John McGinn has been the main shining light in Emery’s XI this season and has also popped up with some important goals. He is no stranger to getting a shot away on goal from his roaming midfielder position and we can back him to force Wes Foderingham into action on Friday night. McGinn just to have one shot on target is priced at 10/11 with Unibet. He has done exactly this for three Premier League games running.
Leeds v Ipswich
As a fan, I love the Christmas period and we get a nice early Christmas present two days before the big day this year in the form of Leeds versus Ipswich, which promises to be one of the games of the season so far. Many tipped Ipswich to have a decent campaign after promotion out of League One, but surely nobody had them down to do as well as they have done. They go into Saturday sitting in the top-two and ten points ahead of Leeds in third. It took a bit of time before the Elland Road club settled into the season but they’ve not looked back since and have been hunting down the likes of Ipswich and Leicester ever since. Two without a win is a minor blip as things stand, but every game they fail to win often sees them gap extend, meaning three points are key in their eyes.
It is a little different from Ipswich purely looking at the league table, but don’t expect them to really take any notice of that and they won’t be heading to West Yorkshire playing to win and only win, even if a draw would be a very positive result also. They have only suffered two defeats all season, those coming against West Brom and also when facing Leeds at home a few months ago, which was a 4-3 epic. Leeds have also defeated Leicester as well, so beating the runaway top-two proves exactly what they’re capable of on any given day. With neither side have any significant injury to contend with it means we should see the best versions of Leeds and Ipswich on Saturday lunchtime, and just like the home clash I believe this could be a classic.
As mentioned, Kieran McKenna’s Ipswich won’t be playing for a draw and you can be certain the same will be said of Leeds, even more so playing at Elland Road. A raucous atmosphere is to be expected to try and drive Leeds over the line and put a bit more life into the automatic promotion race. Daniel Farke’s side possess the only remaining unbeaten home record in the division, which is despite eight of the 11 league matches here this season witnessing both teams scoring. With Ipswich only failing to score in one game all season, you’d suspect BTTS is pretty nailed on this weekend.
Just BTTS alone is not exactly our idea of value for this top of the table fixture and as such we need to boost our odds. If we firmly expect at least two goals in this game, then I’m sure we can stretch out into believing three is quite likely, too. I touched upon the fact both teams will play to win here, so with scores level entering the latter stages you can expect with an open game, as opposed to it becoming quite cagey like some games of this nature can become.
Getting 10/11 from BoyleSports on BTTS and Over 2.5 Goals is just screaming off the page and it has to be the recommended play. This is a confident selection all things considered, which includes understanding the strengths of the two teams and the match situation angles as well.
Chesterfield v Aldershot
Our third and final selection before Christmas sees us drop into the top-flight of non-league football in England, The National League. I make no apologies for doing so as this league is practically an extension of the EFL these days considering the strength of the division. The days of it being a division full of part-time players is a thing of the past, and there is good quality going on week-by-week. That quality should be on full show on Saturday as Chesterfield faces Aldershot, in what is a top versus seventh encounter between two confident teams.
Chesterfield have built up a nice six-point cushion at the top of the standings, which could open up further should they prevail in some of their games in hand, which has occurred due to their continued presence in the FA Cup. Manager Paul Cook has always said the league is the priority, so don’t expect too many eyes to already be thinking ahead to their Third Round away trip to Championship side Watford in early January. They have three league games before that, starting with a not so easy meeting with Aldershot.
Aldershot as well still have FA Cup commitments in the New Year after their impressive win over high-flying Stockport County of League Two in a recent Second Round replay. That was backed up with a mad 5-3 home loss to Eastleigh last time out, but that was only their fifth setback in a 21 game streak in all competitions. This weekend is an enticing challenge for them in terms of testing themselves versus the best in the league, but on one hand it is a rather daunting prospect. The Shots have lost five on their seven away assignments against current top-half teams, which included a 4-3 defeat at home to Cook’s team earlier in the campaign. They could be vulnerable this weekend.
However, I do expect Aldershot to make it a test, a bit like in the home meeting, which saw Chesterfield net a very late winner. The hosts are clearly a very aggressive, front-foot sort of team, but this isn’t a team necessarily built on a bedrock of clean sheets. In fact, they’ve only kept two at home, and that is despite having a won ten, drawn one and lost zero league record at SMH Group Stadium. Also, Barnet, Halifax, Eastleigh, Wealdstone, Hartlepool and Dorking have all been to Chesterfield and scored at least twice, but still ended up on the losing team. Aldershot are also joint-first in the Both Teams to Score tally in the league alongside Hartlepool. Chesterfield matches having a 50-50 split between over and under the 3.5 goal line further suggests goals are again on the cards on Saturday.
You just cannot back against Chesterfield at the moment, they’ve only dropped points in two matches since beating Hartlepool at home back on August 28th. They’ve also knocked to League One clubs out of the FA Cup within that period as well. You’ll get very slim odds on just the home win alone, but we have every right to combine that with BTTS and expect a more than good run for our money. A Chesterfield win and BTTS is attractively priced at 31/20 with Coral.
- John McGinn Over 0.5 Shots on Target (10/11 Unibet)
- Leeds v Ipswich Both Teams to Score and Over 2.5 Goals (10/11 BoyleSports)
- Chesterfield and Both Teams to Score (31/20 Coral)