Fulham vs Aston Villa | Monday 28th September 2020, 18:00 | Sky Sports
The last time this met in a competitive league match was the 2017/18 Championship play-off final, where Tom Cairney fired Fulham into the top-flight. However, the Cottagers Premier League stay didn’t last long, after finishing 19th on 26 points. Now Scott Parker has led them back to the promised land, but he has his work cut out keeping them there.
It’s two defeats in two in the league, but they’re still in the EFL Cup and face Brentford, in a repeat of last season’s Championship play-off final, on Thursday.
Aston Villa recorded their first league win in their opening match against ten-man Sheffield United last Monday. John Egan’s early red card put the hosts in the driving seat, but Dean Smith’s side didn’t cut out all too many chances despite their man advantage.
The Villains also have EFL Cup action on Thursday, when they welcome Championship side Stoke to Villa Park. In the previous round, we saw new signing Bertrand Traoré net on his debut, while Ollie Watkins also scored from off the bench.
Despite their 4-3 defeat at Leeds last weekend, Fulham’s data is fairly positive. If they cut out basic errors and have a better shape to them, then they’ll have a fighting chance of survival. They had an Expected Goals of 1.56xG, which was better than Leeds (1.45xG). Fulham also outshot the Yorkshire club 14-10, with six of those efforts testing Illan Meslier in the Leeds goal.
Aston Villa found it difficult to break down a stubborn Sheffield United side, who played with ten-men for over 75 minutes. It took Ezri Konsa’s header to break the deadlock after Emiliano Martinez saved a John Lundstram penalty. Dean Smith’s side cut out just 0.81xG in that game. And despite having 18 attempts at the Blades’ goal, just two found the target.
It’s no wonder that Smith has splashed the cash in forward areas with Watkins and Traoré both costing around £15m. Plus, they also spent big to tempt Matty Cash away from Nottingham Forest.
There’s plenty of pace in this Villa attack now, and with Fulham likely to take a possession-based approach then the breaks will be crucial to Villa’s chances. The data points to Fulham, but I’m not sure they’re 100% reliable at the back, and this just looks too close to call in the outrights.
The key battle
While many will say this is the Villa defence of Tyrone Mings and Konsa keeping Aleksandar Mitrović quiet, there’s another battle that intrigues me.
It, of course, involves Jack Grealish and his likely opponent Kenny Tete. Having signed from Lyon, he made his debut at Leeds, where he completed three tackles, got an assist and was also cautioned – a good start for the numbers. So, up against Grealish, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to get stuck in and win the ball back, so I did look towards the 3+ tackles at 13/10 with Ladbrokes.
But, we all know about Grealish and how often he’s fouled. He was brought down 167 times last season. While in their opening game against Sheffield United, he won three free-kicks. Let’s just say his card is usually marked.
Tete at 4/1 for a card looks a good way in after he also committed the joint-most amount of fouls in that game at Leeds (3), alongside teammate André-Frank Zambo Anguissa.
Plus, you’ve got Stuart Attwell in charge and he loves a card. In his two games so far, he’s shown four cautions in both, including his Europa League qualifier between Servette and Reims.
When football returned last season behind closed doors, Attwell took charge of six games. Four of those saw each team having over one card, plus that continued with his opening Premier League game between West Ham and Newcastle. Last season saw him beat Mike Dean in the yellows per game averages, only just though – 4.19 to 4.15, while the Warwickshire man also gave on average 21.52 fouls per game.
He seems to dine off at least four cards per game, so I’m willing to back both teams having over one card here at 7/5 with William Hill in what could prove to be a tight tussle.
Fulham v Aston Villa – Both Teams Over 1.5 Cards (7/5 William Hill)
Fulham v Aston Villa – Kenny Tete to be carded 4/1 (Bet365)