Aston Villa vs Crystal Palace | Saturday 26th December 2020, 15:00 | BBC
Aston Villa welcome Crystal Palace to the West Midlands in search of a first home win since their thrashing of Liverpool five home games ago.
Despite Villa’s inconsistent home form, their return of 22 points after 12 games is their best at this stage of a Premier League campaign since the 2001/02 season. They finished eighth that year. If they are to keep their key players fit and provide consistent performances, there’s no reason why they can’t replicate that position this time out.
Villa have won 7 games thus far in just 12 outings, that is half the number of games it took them to record that many wins last season, when it took 24. The early signs are there for a brilliant season for Dean Smith’s men but Crystal Palace will be keen to add to their Villa Park woes.
Palace do look half-decent attacking wise themselves this year with Wilfried Zaha operating a striker role alongside the rejuvenated Christian Benteke. Tricky winger Eberechi Eze has added a different dimension to the Eagles’ attack as well.
Cards and fouls the way to go
The two games between these two last season were very feisty. There were 12 yellow cards and a combined 73 fouls across the two matches in two scrappy affairs. That’s the angle of attack I will be taking for this Boxing Day clash.
We can get 10/11 on Bet365’s Bet Builder for Crystal Palace Over 1 Card, and Over 12.5 Free Kicks in the match for Aston Villa.
Villa’s opponents have picked up 2+ cards in 8/12 games this season meaning a 66% success rate, and they have taken 13 or more free kicks in all but two of their matches. Both teams sit in the top five for fouls against, with Villa topping the charts by suffering 16 fouls-per-game.
In total this season, games involving these two have seen 10 of the 21 Premier League red cards, with both teams being involved in 5 red cards in their opening fixtures. There is a hot streak occurring in Villa games, with their opponents picking up a red card in 3 of their last 5 games.
In fact, Jake Livermore’s red card last weekend was the fourth red card shown for a foul on Jack Grealish since the beginning of last season – the most of any player in this time. I do like to look of a red card being brandished, available at 5/1 with both William Hill and Bet365.
The referee, Antony Taylor, has given a red card in 0.2 of his games this season, meaning 1 in 5, and both were for similar offences by Antony Martial and Nicolas Pepe – a headbutting action. Taylor also gave 5 red cards last campaign, the joint most of all top-flight whistle blowers.
Want even more signs for a possible red card in this game? Ok. There was a red card in both games between the two last season. Given the regularity of red cards in these two teams games at the moment, the price is too good to turn down.
Luka Milivojevic also takes my eye for a card, priced at 7/4 with Bet365. He’s been carded in 4 of his 6 starts this season. He has 37 cards to his name in 129 Crystal Palace appearances, meaning he is carded 1 in every 3.5 games. His fouls-per-game stands at a whopping 1.6 after committing a huge 215 fouls in 129 games. Dirty.
Taylor took charge of 2 games that the Serb started for Palace last season, and yellow carded him both times. Milivojevic was also carded on both occasions against Villa last season.
I’m going to pair the Palace captain with Villa’s defensive midfielder, Douglas Luiz. The double pays 13/1 with Betfair’s Same Game Multi (it’s 8/1 elsewhere). The Brazilian was also booked on both occasions last year and has 2 yellows and 1 red in his 11 starts this season. Taylor booked him in 1 of the 3 Villa games he oversaw in 2019/20.
Aston Villa vs Crystal Palace – Crystal Palace Over 1 Card, Aston Villa Over 12.5 Free Kicks (10/11 Bet365)
Aston Villa vs Crystal Palace – A red card in the match (5/1 William Hill)
Aston Villa vs Crystal Palace – Luka Milivojevic to be carded (7/4 Bet365)
Aston Villa vs Crystal Palace – Luka Milivojevic and Douglas Luiz to be carded (13/1 Betfair)