Impressive Villa worth chancing

Our team look ahead to Saturday's action in the Premier League and expect Aston Villa to cause Liverpool problems.

Last Updated: 24/08/13 at 16:45 Post Comment

Christian Benteke can help Aston Villa to another impressive win

Christian Benteke can help Aston Villa to another impressive win

Our team of tipsters look ahead to the weekend's action in the Premier League and expect Aston Villa to cause Liverpool problems.

Arsenal travel to Fulham in the day's first game and Chris Hammer reckons they can build on their midweek win in Turkey.

Later on, Newcastle and Liverpool look opposable favourites while Norwich can get their first away win of the season on the board at Hull.

Fulham v Arsenal (1245 BST)

Arsenal's Premier League campaign got off to a woeful start as a shock 3-1 home defeat against Aston Villa further intensified the negativity surrounding the club - and another setback this weekend could prompt even Arsene Wenger's biggest fans to question whether the Frenchman's time at the Emirates is coming to an end. If they're not doing so already, that is. The Gunners' opening day performance highlighted a lack of depth which has not be addressed due to Wenger's failure to splash the cash this summer. Matters were made worse by the dismissal of defender Laurent Koscielny while the injury sustained by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has been ruled out for up to six weeks, was the icing on a particularly stale cake. However, one must applaud the way Wenger's side showed strength of character amid all the criticism to produce the required response in Istanbul on Wednesday night as they claimed a priceless 3-0 victory over Fenerbahce in their Champions League play-off first leg. You could argue the Turkish side were poor and failed to work Arsenal as hard as many expected but nevertheless this was mainly down to the visitors' dominance and such a result will restore some of the team's lost confidence. Now they face a trip to Craven Cottage to face a Fulham side buoyed by their 1-0 victory at Sunderland. However, those who saw any of the game will point out Martin Jol's side scored with pretty much their only chance of the match although credit to them for holding firm against the Black Cats to snatch an improbable three points. Their Dutch boss appreciates the need to improve on their display and we should expect a more attacking performance on home soil, especially considering the much publicised weaknesses in Arsenal's defence. However, while several punters will feel the Cottagers look quite a tempting price at a general 5/2, Arsenal's display in Turkey makes you realise they're nowhere near as bad as critics made out last weekend and they too will see support at 23/20. Also, I feel it's significant to point out how good Aston Villa were during an unlucky 2-1 defeat at Chelsea on Wednesday night in which they deserved at least a point, proving their performance at the Emirates was certainly no fluke. I would argue Fulham don't look as dangerous as Villa at the moment and Arsenal could be in for an easier test than their opening game.

Verdict: Fulham 1 Arsenal 2 (CH)

Opta stats:

Only against Manchester United (17) have Fulham lost more Barclays Premier League games than versus Arsenal (16).

Fulham have won just three of their previous 24 Premier League games against the Gunners, but all three of these victories have come at Craven Cottage.

Darren Bent has scored six goals in his last eight Premier League games against Arsenal.

Everton v West Brom (1500)

To cut straight to the chase, I've seen worse 8/13 chances than Everton already this season. The Toffees looked good for large periods in their opening 2-2 draw at Norwich, dominating possession, and if they can tidy up one or two defensive issues then there's every possibility the transition from David Moyes to Roberto Martinez can prove a smooth one. Of course, the bar is set high, but it's dangerous to underestimate the quality within this Everton squad and they look like they will create chances galore in games like this. Kevin Mirallas looked particularly dangerous against Norwich and Nikica Jelavic still struggling to rediscover his best, it's Mirallas who appeals as any time score value at 9/4. Ross Barkley grabbed the brunt of the plaudits at Carrow Road and he too looks reasonably priced at 5/1 in what's a dynamic Everton midfield, one capable of keeping West Brom at arm's length. Steve Clarke has a job on his hands this season and early signs are less than encouraging, with Southampton value for their away win last weekend. At 34, Nicolas Anelka's best days have been and gone and without Romelu Lukaku, the Baggies may struggle in front of goal. Clearly, Everton have questions to answer at the back which means 9/5 about a home win to nil isn't all that appealing despite West Brom's attacking woes, but while we can just about leave Everton alone at 8/13 anyone looking for a Premier League banker for their coupon should stop here.

Verdict: Everton 3 West Brom 1 (BC)

Opta stats:

Everton have dropped just four points from a possible 21 from their seven Barclays Premier League home meetings with WBA.

Just one of the previous 14 Barclays Premier League meetings between these two sides has ended in a draw.

West Brom have failed to score a goal in four of their last six Barclays Premier League games away from home.

Hull v Norwich (1500)

Hull got off to a predictably losing start at title contenders Chelsea on Sunday in Jose Mourinho's first game back at Stamford Bridge but given the tough nature of that opening contest, we can't really use the 2-0 defeat as extra proof to underline their relegation credentials. The newly-promoted Tigers never looked liked threatening the Happy One's 61-game unbeaten home record in the Premier League and pretty much allowed the Blues to use the clash as nothing more than an intense training exercise ahead of much stiffer assaignments. Steve Bruce now turns his attention to what he'll feel is a winnable home game against Norwich but I can only see another defeat which will be met with far more disappointment than their first. The Canaries will arrive at the KC Stadium on the back of an encouraging 2-2 draw with Everton in which they showed heart and character to come from a goal down against an enterprising Toffees outfit. Summer signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel headed the equaliser in a game which both sides showed plenty of attacking intent and although the visitors were probably more deserving of the three points, I don't feel Hull are capable of causing Norwich the kind of problems Everton did. Chris Hughton should also have Gary Hooper available after he was unable to make his debut against Everton due to a shin injury while the Canaries boss has further bolstered his strikeforce with the loan signing of Johan Elmander from Galatasaray this week. Although the Swedish forward earned mixed reviews during his time at Bolton, his strength on the ball does give Norwich extra options in the final third if Hull get tough. The visitors are a best of 21/10 with BetVictor and I feel that's well worth snapping up.

Verdict: Hull 1 Norwich 2 (CH)

Opta stats:

Hull City have not scored a Barclays Premier League goal at home for 357 minutes.

Norwich City have won just five points (W1 D2 L7) from their last 10 away games in the Barclays Premier League.

The Canaries have won just one of their last seven competitive games against Hull City (L2), but four of these meetings have ended in 1-1 draws.

Newcastle v West Ham (1500)Nothing ever seems easy at Newcastle and Monday night's 4-0 defeat at Manchester City will have done nothing for confidence levels in a squad which needs reinforcements. Only Loic Remy has been brought in and it shouldn't be forgotten that Newcastle were perilously close to the relegation zone for much of last season. With that and West Ham's strong opening victory against Cardiff in mind, it's hard to get excited about Newcastle at 13/10 here, especially with Steven Taylor suspended following his reckless dismissal at the Etihad. Quite rightly, West Ham have a reputation which says they're better at home. But one of their three away wins last season was here at Newcastle, and a look at their late-season form shows draws at Liverpool and Southampton, a narrow defeat at City and reasonable efforts at both Everton and Chelsea. With that and the hosts' clear troubles in mind, a small bet on an away win looks worthwhile here. Stewart Downing's addition, the return to form of Joe Cole and the consistently solid displays of Kevin Nolan give the Hammers a central midfield which can compete on the road and with Newcastle potentially without Yohan Cabaye again, they may struggle to assert their home advantage.

Verdict: Newcastle 0 West Ham 1 (BC)

Opta stats:

Newcastle have lost three Barclays Premier League games in a row. They've never lost four in a row in the competition.

West Ham have won just one of their last 14 away games in the Barclays Premier League (W1 D3 L10).

The Hammers were the only side that managed to keep a clean sheet both home and away against Newcastle United in the Premier League last season.

Southampton v Sunderland (1500)

Rickie Lambert capped the best week of his career last Saturday by netting a last-minute winner at West Brom having three days earlier scored with his first touch on a dream England debut to hand the Three Lions a thrilling 3-2 victory over Scotland. The 31-year-old striker will probably still be pinching himself while Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino was also beaming with the performances of teenage trio Luke Shaw, James Ward-Prowse and Calum Chambers at The Hawthorns as well as summer signings Dejan Lovren and Victor Wanyama. All in all, there's a justified feeling of enthusiasm at St Mary's right now and the deserved three points against the Baggies will certainly breed more confidence ahead of this weekend's clash with Sunderland. However, while I agree the future looks bright for the Saints, I feel there might be a slight exaggeration in the prices for this clash, with the visitors priced at an eye-catching 22/5 to pick up all three points. Sure, Sunderland started the campaign with a disappointing 1-0 home defeat to Fulham but they did dominate proceedings and just let frustration get the better of them after spurning enough chances to win the game. Cape Verde international Cabral looked most impressive in the Wiersiders' midfield while Adam Johnson and Emanuele Giaccherini looked lively down the flanks. Stephane Sessegnon and Jozy Altidore will have to to show more killer instinct up front this weekend but overall I don't think an away win is as unlikely as the odds suggest.

Verdict: Southampton 1 Sunderland 2 (CH)

Opta stats:

Southampton have scored just three goals in their last six Barclays Premier League matches.

Sunderland have lost six of their last seven Barclays Premier League matches away from home (W1 L6).

The last three Premier League meetings between these two sides have seen just four goals scored in total.

Stoke v Crystal Palace (1500)

If you had a free ticket for any Premier League game this Saturday, a trip to the Britania Stadium would surely be right near the bottom of your list unless you happened to be a Potters or Eagles fan. Stoke were the second-lowest scoring side in the top flight last season - their miserable tally of 34 was only better than QPR - and to be quite honest they looked just as toothless against Liverpool on the opening day. Having been outplayed for virtually the entire game at Anfield despite only trailing 1-0, Mark Hughes side were even gifted the chance to salvage an undeserved point in the 87th minute but Jonathan Walters, who could write a book on how to miss penalties, once again fluffed his lines from the spot. Their performance suggested Hughes' optimism that his team would score more goal this season has been misplaced and it will take longer than he thinks to change the Tony Pulis style of play which has certainly passed its sell by date. Nevertheless, I'd still back them to scramble home at least one goal against a poor Crystal Palace side I've already tipped to finish rock bottom. To be fair, Ian Holloway's men only restricted Tottenham to one goal at Selhurst Park on Sunday but they never really threatened the visitors and I expect them to struggle even more to create chances on the road. As mentioned in my relegation preview, the Eagles earned promotion despite freefalling during the second half of the campaign which nearly even saw them miss out on the play-offs and apart from the 2-0 play-off semi-final second leg victory at Brighton, they haven't won a regulation league game away from home since winning 1-0 at Derby on March 1. That goal was just one of two they managed in their last six away games and nothing has changed this summer in the way of signings to suggest they can trouble Premier League defences. Stoke are 2/1 to win to nil with Sky Bet and I think that's fair although some punters might be more keen on William Hill's 10/1 about there being no goal scorer.

Verdict: Stoke 1 Crystal Palace 0 (CH)

Opta stats:

Stoke City have scored just three goals in their last six home games in the Barclays Premier League.

Asmir Begovic was forced in to making the most saves in the Barclays Premier League on the opening weekend (10); also equalling his record tally in a PL appearance.

Crystal Palace picked up just 35% (25 of 72) of their Championship points last season away from home.

Aston Villa v Liverpool (1730)

Many feared for Aston Villa when the fixture list came out. A side who lacked confidence for the best part of last season and were condemned by many come Christmas, trips to the Emirates and Stamford Bridge followed by this game presented manager Paul Lambert with a huge problem. But, just as they did in the spring, his young squad have answered the call. Villa were full value for their three points at the Emirates and deserved at least a draw against Chelsea, where key decisions went against them. The strength of those two performances combined with the sense of injustice among the camp makes them an extremely dangerous opponent for Liverpool, who looked good against Stoke but still needed a bit of fortune having once again wasted chances. What looks guaranteed here is an entertaining game with plenty of stylish approach play - I certainly don't think 17/20 about over 2.5 goals is the worst bet - but Villa perhaps have the edge in front of goal and at 2/1 draw no bet with William Hill they're surely worth a small punt. Liverpool have historically done well at Villa Park and there's a case to be made for Villa suffering the effects of two demanding games, but at this stage of the season there shouldn't be any physical issues and this bet simply comes down to value.

Verdict: Aston Villa 3 Liverpool 2 (BC)

Opta stats:

Aston Villa have conceded a goal in each of their last 11 Barclays Premier League matches at Villa Park.

Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge has scored seven goals in his last six Barclays Premier League appearances.

Liverpool attempted more shots at goal than any other side on the opening weekend (20), to follow up their league-high tally of 528 shots in 2012/13.

  • Aston Villa v Liverpool is being televised live in the UK on Sky Sports, with the Fulham v Arsenal game on BT Sport.

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