Aston Villa vs HibernianUEFA Europa League Conference, KO: 20:00 Aug 31, 2023, Villa Park
IT was hard to see how Lee Johnson could recover from a 5-0 mauling by Aston Villa in the Europa Conference League play-offs and the Hibernian boss was duly axed after following it up with another damaging defeat to Livingston at the weekend.
The opening few weeks of the season suggested that this Battle of Britain might be like Tyson Fury going up against a featherweight and that's how it played out as Villa ripped Johnson's side to shreds.
Ollie Watkins helped himself to a hat-trick and I was one of many punters who cashed in by going for goals after watching Hibernian ship three goals over two legs to Andorran minnows Inter Club d'Escaldes.
Dismal defending cost Hibs once more against Livingston at the weekend and another goals bet landed for me in a 3-2 loss that summed up Johnson's entertaining but doomed reign in Edinburgh.
Legend David Gray has taken caretaker charge and finds himself on a hiding to nothing with Hibernian heading south looking to avoid more embarrassment in the second leg of their clash with Aston Villa.
Since losing 5-1 at St James' Park on day one in the Premier League, Unai Emery's side have hardly put a foot wrong, hammering Everton 4-0 then going one better against Hibs before winning 3-1 on the road at Burnley on Sunday.
With a trip to Anfield looming this weekend, I wouldn't be surprised if the Villa boss fielded a shadow team against Hibs with the job already done and a place in the group stage all but secured. But Aston Villa still have enough firepower in reserve to make this another painful evening for the Easter Road side.
How the bookies view it
Hibernian have been written off again and are as big as 20/1 with BoyleSports for a shock win in the Midlands. Aston Villa's best price is just 1/7 at Bet365 and the draw pays 17/2 with the same firm.
Head to head
That 5-0 win for Aston Villa at Easter Road was the first competitive meeting of these teams. But this is Hibernian's fifth Battle of Britain after twice losing on aggregate in Europe to both Liverpool and Leeds United.
Players to watch
I'd expect Emery to give some fringe players a chance to shine and young Colombian Jhon Duran could be unleashed up front. He scored off the bench against Everton earlier this season and is 6/5 with Bet365 to net against the Hibees.
Hibernian might also rest a few players ahead of a big domestic game away to Aberdeen. Veteran Adam Le Fondre could start up front and he's 11/2 with SkyBet to grab a third goal of the season.
Anything else catch the eye?
Going for goals has paid off pretty much all season with this Hibernian side but caretaker boss Gray will probably set his side up to defend deep and avoid embarrassment. With Aston Villa not needing to chase a goal it could end up a non-event, a bit like the 0-0 draw between Tottenham and Hearts in London back in 2011 after Spurs had romped to a 5-0 Europa League play-off win at Tynecastle.
The bookies think Aston Villa will still run riot, with over 2.5 home goals just 4/6 with most firms and over 3.5 match strikes just 11/10 at William Hill. But I'm going to combine a Villa victory with under 3.5 goals and that pays 6/5 with Bet365.
Betting against a lot of corners could pay off with so little at stake and Bet365 are offering 11/8 on under 10 flag kicks. I was surprised by the lack of fight Hibernian showed in the first leg as Aston Villa's players were allowed to pass the ball about without any heavy challenges going in. Betting against cards could pay off in the return as well but I've yet to see any prices on total cards.
This UEFA Europa League Conference match between Aston Villa and Hibernian will be played on Aug 31, 2023 and kick off at 20:00. Check below for our tipsters best Aston Villa vs Hibernian prediction. You may also visit our dedicated betting previews section for the most up to date previews.