ASTON VILLA host Spurs on Sunday. Jack Wright (@JackWright_BSB ) is on-hand to preview the match-up.
Aston Villa vs Tottenham | Sunday 21st March 2021, 19:30 | Sky Sports
Three fascinating questions wait to be answered in the Sunday evening Premier League kick-off at Villa Park.
Will Jack Grealish be fit enough to make a comeback ahead of the international break? Will Jose Mourinho get a positive or negative response after a no holds barred attack on his side in midweek? And possibly most intriguingly, will Joe Hart’s social media team get the result right in his post-match Instagram story!?
In answer to the first question that appears to be in the hands of Villa’s captain and talisman himself as a hopeful Dean Smith declared “I'll leave it until Sunday morning. He's not trained with us, but he's pain-free and he's running. Ultimately, it will be his decision.”
Deciding on the outcome of this clash could possibly come down to that decision as we are well aware of the positive impact “Super Jack” has on his team – illustrated by their securing of just one win in the five games he has been absent from.
Spurs, on the other hand, have key absentees of their own with Heung-Min Son injured and Erik Lamela suspended after his double booking in the North London derby last weekend ruining a match in which he scored with a rabona.
It was certainly back down to earth with a bump for Jose and his team, with defeats to their bitter rivals preceding a shock elimination from the Europa League – this following a run of five successive victories in which they scored 15 goals conceding just once.
Gareth Bale was back in great form – scoring five goals in those five victories, Dele Alli was back in from the cold with and overhead goal helping him catch his managers eye in an attempt to cement his spot in the team, but elimination from Europe after taking a two-goal advantage to Croatia has undone all that good work.
I would most definitely be on board with the Villans if a fully fit Grealish was able to take this game to the shellshocked visitors and at best odds of 11/5 I am still tempted – the price will certainly contract if the 25-year-old's name does appear on the team sheet at 6:30pm.
However, instead to keep Aston Villa onside I am taking a look at who is likely to step up in their on field leaders' absence but would also benefit from his creativity if he did manage 60 minutes or more.
Ollie Watkins has made a fantastic job of his first season of top flight football, with 10 goals and three assists to his name but also his work ethic leading to some calls for him to gate crash in to the England squad for this summer's European Championships.
The 25-year-old from Torbay has the second highest WhoScored rating (7.23) of the regular starters in his team with only Grealish ahead of him with an impressive 7.73 which places him second in the EPL – behind one Harry Kane (7.78).
Watkins has scooped the Man of the Match award on four occasions this season, equal to that of his captain and although nowhere near the odds I got of 33/1 when top scoring in the 7-2 thrashing of Liverpool, I think the 9/1 available with Betfair is worth taking for a small stake.
Harry Kane tops the overall ratings and of course is a massive threat, but at odds of 7/2 and given my hunch is for a Villa win – is worth taking on with Watkins.
Another man I just have to keep on the right side of – whilst hoping the players do not – is man in the middle Mike Dean.
It’s been another stellar season for Wirral whistle blower and certainly punters who have backed card action in his games would not have been disappointed as he sits fourth in the EPL averages for yellow cards issued per game with 3.39 and top for red cards issued with seven – more than double his closest rival whilst also having pointed to the spot on six occasions from his 18 appointments.
Most of Twitter will remember the last time Magic Mike took charge of an Aston Villa game – as he gave them all an early Christmas present when brandishing his yellow card on 11 occasions in an away game at Wolves in December – twice followed by a red as first Douglas Luiz and then Joao Moutinho were dismissed for two cautionable offences.
In which case it would be wrong of me not to give some focus to the cards market for this clash.
Having seen the aforementioned Bale looking livelier as his fitness and confidence return – it could be a tricky afternoon for Villa left back Matt Targett.
Targett has picked up five yellows from his 27 appearances this season including in that Molineux card fest – so although odds of 9/2 are about right if we have a pumped-up Bale in opposition out with a point to prove it would be no surprise if the left back found his way back in to Mr. Dean’s little black book.
Villa have two of this season’s five most fouled players in the EPL in their squad – no surprise to see Jack Grealish at the head of that particular list already in three figures from his 22 appearances and an incredible 36 more than the next most sinned against, Sadio Mane – but John McGinn also makes it having drawn a fifth highest 59 so far.
With this in mind, and then taking in to account the Jose midweek rocket still ringing in Spurs ears, as well as the man in the middle, I like the odds of 12/5 with Bet 365 (using Bet Builder) for Tottenham to pick up over two cards (three or more).
Given the fact of McGinn being one of the most fouled and his direct opponent Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has fouled more than any other EPL player this season (51 picking up six yellows along the way) I wouldn’t put off anyone having a play on both those midfield men seeing a card at odds of 16/1.