Sports Betting Weekly

Aston Villa v Stoke

When: Saturday, 21 February 2015 @ 21:00 (FINISHED)
Where: Villa Park
Having been “very encouraged” by what was – in truth – a dire F.A. Cup fifth round victory over Leicester City, new Aston Villa manager, Tim Sherwood, will have the chance to eke out a performance to truly be proud of from his players when the club entertain Stoke at Villa Park on Saturday.

While the hosts’ well-documented goal drought did finally come to an end against league leaders, Chelsea, two weeks ago, the fact remains that Villa are the worst-ranked team in the Premier League form table and go into the weekend clash on a run of five consecutive defeats in the top flight.

Certainly, then, Sherwood will have it all to do if he is to get Villa’s sinking ship buoyant again, but with the cup victory representing a welcome respite from the trials and tribulations of the Premier League, he’ll at least have the chance to restore the winning habit against a Stoke side who were thrashed 4-1 by Blackburn last weekend and his team have been named as 7/4 favourites for the tie.

Admittedly, we use the term “favourites” in only the most literal sense of the word as Mark Hughes’ visitors weigh in at near-identical odds of 15/8, but few will want to take such a slim price on Stoke given Aston Villa’s players will be aiming to impress their manager and earn a place in the first team.

While it would be nice to get swept up in the wave of optimism and back Villa to do the business straight away under Sherwood, it looks unlikely that this is a side that can be fixed overnight – and backing a team that has not won in 10 league games can never be a smart move at such short odds. Instead, you should look to the fact that these two sides have drawn almost half of their games together in the Premier League era and take advantage of the better 9/4 odds on such an outcome.

Furthermore, the 6/1 on the game finishing 1-1 looks like a nice price considering Sherwood will still need some time to settle on his preferred starting line-up and would probably see a score draw as a step in the right direction given Villa’s wretched league form, while the fact that no Villa player has scored more than three league goals this season makes under 1.5 goals a tempting bet at 24/13.

In terms of picking a first goalscorer for the home side, Christian Benteke is deemed the man most likely at 5/1 – but given his poor form and the uncertainty of how he will react to his new manager, those odds look a little short. Of perhaps more interest is Gabby Agbonlahor – who was rested against Leicester due to a hamstring concern but should be fit and raring to go by Saturday – at 7/1, while for the visitors, Peter Crouch has three goals in his last three games and is available at 13/2.