Aston Villa vs Wolves | Saturday 6th March 2021, 17:30 | Sky Sports
Saturday teatime serves up a Midlands derby between Aston Villa and Wolves – a game we’re all hoping is eventful as December’s reverse – the Battle of Molineux.
Anwar El Ghazi slotted home a penalty in stoppage time to seal the three points for the Villains. But Mike Dean stole the show with 140 booking points, sending off Douglas Luiz and João Moutinho.
A repeat could be on the cards with no love lost, as both search for consistency.
Villa have played 11 league games in 2021, winning four, drawing once and losing six.
They’ve also struggled in front of goal of late. The Villains scored 27 times in their first 13 games, but there’s been a dip in form in the opposition box, scoring 11 goals in their last 12.
It sounds like Jack Grealish is close to a return to fitness and Dean Smith might employ some mind games to say he’s out when he could play a part.
I can’t see this being full of goals anyway. Nuno Espírito Santo has taken a pragmatic approach to games of late and, to be honest, Wolves have been pretty dull to watch.
Only Adama Traoré and Pedro Neto seem capable of injecting any excitement. The Leeds win came courtesy of some good fortune after a glimpse of what Adama is capable of, while they rescued a point at Newcastle after a delicious cross from Neto.
Wolves have won three of their last six but, like Villa, have struggled in 2021. They’ve played 11 times in the top-flight – W3, D4, L4 – like Revels, it’s been a mixed bag.
The betting angles
As I said above, I can’t see this being end-to-end with keepers making a string of saves. Sadly, under 2.5 goals is already odds-on, but there could be another way to go.
The alternative goal line of under 2 goals on Bet365 at 27/20 (2.35) could be a route to take. Five of Villa’s last seven league games have all seen that cop. Plus, the last two meetings have both finished 1-0.
Away from that, there’s been confusion around the referee. Craig Pawson was originally appointed but was replaced from Liverpool v Chelsea.
That’s when Andy Madley’s name appeared on the PL website next to this game. However, the site has reverted to Pawson.
The dilemma is that one (Pawson) is a good whistler for free kicks and cards, whereas Madley isn’t, and that would dampen enthusiasm for cards.
Just to prove the point:
- Pawson: 63 yellows and three reds in 18 domestic games + four matches in Europe have seen 16 yellows and one red.
- Madley: 51 yellows and one red in 21 domestic games + two matches in Europe have had 10 yellows and a red.
If I was to play the cards market, Ahmed Elmohamady (6/1) is at an eye-catching price. He’s been booked in two of his last three starts and could be given the run around by Neto.
One thing that slightly surprised me was that Madley ranks fourth of the PL refs for fouls per game at 23.6 – that’s similar enough to Pawson at 23.8.
So, if Wolves do sit slightly deeper and invite pressure, then over 14.5 Aston Villa free kicks at 11/10 is something that interests me.
That line has landed in 17 of Villa’s league games, including in the reverse, where they were fouled 21 times. More often than not, this line hasn’t come in when they face a ‘big six’ side, so with this being a derby, you’d expect a few tackles to fly in.
According to fbref, Grealish ranks top for the most fouled player, while Villa have John McGinn in third. The Scot is a surprising name, but this could be an attritional battle in the middle of the park, where Ruben Neves and Moutinho commit fouls against him and his Villa team-mates.
The Villains also have the lively El Ghazi and Bertrand Traore driving at their opponents, so I’m more than happy to take that line for Villa free kicks.
Away from that, I’m getting stuck into the Matt Target tackles line with 3+ available at 21/20 on Pokerstars.
The left-back is Villa’s top tackler for attempts and won this term. Plus, he’s going to have his hands full coping with Traoré, as well if Neto switches sides.
One of their recent away games saw Wolves travel to Southampton, the Saints full-backs racked up the tackles – Kyle Walker-Peters six and Ryan Bertrand three, while Leicester’s James Justin racked up four against them.
With Targett completing plenty of tackles this season, including nine v Southampton, six v Palace (facing Wilfried Zaha), and he made five against both Arsenal and Man City.
This could come down to Wolves being adventurous, which they haven’t been of late. But with Traoré offering a much-needed outlet then Targett is the player to back for tackles.
It’s Pedro Neto to have 1+ shot on target from outside the box. He’s one of the sparks in this bland Wolves team with his shoot on sight mentality.
The 20-year-old has had 2+ shots in 12 of his last 16 matches, proving that he loves a shot. In the games against Leeds and Newcastle, he had 10 shots – five in each.
Inside 20 minutes against Leeds, he’d recorded two shots on target from outside the area, while it also landed against Newcastle, forcing Martin Dúbravka into a save from a free kick – and he could be on duty for this one as well.
Going through the Wolves games has hardly seen them rack up the shots, but despite that Neto can lead the way for once more, as he tries to grab this game by the scruff of the neck.