CARDS specialist Chris Goodwin (@CGeorgeGamble) picks out his favourite fancies from Sunday evening's showdown between Wests Brom and Aston Villa.
West Brom vs Aston Villa | Sunday 20th December 2020, 19:15 | BT Sport
One of the more interesting games of the weekend here as we see another Midlands Derby as league strugglers West Brom welcome a much improved Aston Villa to the Hawthorns.
West Brom have had a torrid time since returning to the top flight and will now look to Sam Allardyce to help them in their quest to avoid the drop at the end of this campaign, after sacking Slaven Bilic during the week.
It was a questionable move and one many felt was a mistake, given the man from Croatia hadn’t been backed in the transfer window and was working with a squad that has little to no Premier League experience.
New gaffer Sam Allardyce has an excellent record when taking charge of his first game for a Premier League side and what better way to endear yourself to the fans than by claiming a victory over your rivals.
Dean Smith will be welcoming back a number of key players such as Matty Cash, Douglas Luiz and quite possibly Ross Barkley. They’ve been key contributors to some of the Villans fantastic results away from home this season and if they’re available, Smith must fancy getting a result.
They’ve been one of the more entertaining teams to watch this season and have seen scorelines that wouldn’t look out of place on a FIFA game! They’ve won FOUR of their FIVE away games so far and currently sit 11th in the table, six points off of fourth with two games in hand. If they can win this one, maybe they can set their sights on getting into Europe as opposed to just finishing in the top half.
- Commit on average 12 fouls per game when playing at home this season.
- Receive on average 12.7 fouls per game when playing at home this season (third-most).
- Have seen at least a card in 6/6 home games this season.
- In those games, the opposition have seen at least a card 5/6 occasions.
- Have seen 2+ cards in their last FOUR games overall.
- Have failed to win in 12 of their last 13 EPL matches.
- Concede more shots per game when playing at home (17) than any other EPL side this season.
- Are undefeated in their last EIGHT home games against Aston Villa in all competitions.
- In the EPL, the baggies have lost their final league match before Christmas in each of their last FOUR campaigns.
- After scoring FIVE goals in their first THREE EPL games this season, West Brom have scored just FIVE goals in their subsequent 10 in the competition – never scoring more than once during this run.
- Possess the lowest expected goals (xG) in the EPL this season. Have a record of 0.6 xG per game this season compared to 1.7 in the Championship last season.
- Are the only side in the division yet to score a headed goal. Yet 23% of their goals conceded have been headers.
- West Brom will be the eighth different club that Sam Allardyce has managed in the EPL.
- Big Sam has only lost his first EPL game in charge of a new team on ONE occasion (W5 D1 L1), losing with Sunderland in 2015 against the side he manages today.
- Sam Allardyce will be without at least two players through injury for his first game in charge since replacing Slaven Bilic in midweek and will be unable to call upon Matheus Pereira, through suspension.
- Conor Townsend and Kyle Bartley will miss out but Sam Field and Hal Robson-Kanu are nearing a return to action.
- Commit on average 13.4 fouls per game when playing away this season (second-most).
- Receive on average 17 fouls per game when playing away this season (most in the league).
- Have seen 2+ cards in 3/5 away games this season.
- In those games, the opposition has seen 2+ cards on 3/5 occasions.
- Have won 4/5 away games in the EPL this season.
- Have lost TWO of their last FOUR EPL meetings with today’s opponents. This will be the first top-flight meeting between the sides since a 0-0 draw in 2016.
- Have won their final league game before Christmas in just ONE of their last NINE seasons.
- Already have more away points this season than they did in the entirety of last season.
- Douglas Luiz and Matty Cash both return following suspensions and will most likely replace Ahmed Elmohamady and Marvelous Nakamba in the lineup.
- Ezri Konsa was a late withdrawal from the squad to face Burnley due to illness and with just two days between matches, he may not be fully fit.
- Dean Smith will be very keen to have Ross Barkley back available, and if fit he would likely replace Bertrand Traore.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
- Averages 2.00 cards per game so far this season.
- In his last 20 games officiated, the home side has seen 20+ booking points on 11 occasions.
My first pick is for West Brom to pick up 20+ Booking Points. Priced up at 5/6 on Bet365 and I think that’s a great price considering id have it around 1.7 given it’s a derby. We saw over 100 booking points last weekend as Villa beat Wolves in a West Midlands derby. That was a tight game with fouls all across the park and I think we will see much of the same here.
Villa are the most fouled side in the division but also commit the second most fouls in the league when playing away from home. The Baggies meanwhile receive the third most fouls when playing at home.
During Allardyce’s last season at Everton, they committed more fouls than any other side in the league. He may not have had time to implement what he wants into his new side, but you can bet the Baggies will be a little bit more aggressive and organised defensively.
Despite Martin Atkinson not having a high average this season, I think that number will be much higher come full-time as he is given no choice but to award a plethora of cards.
My second pick is for Conor Gallagher to pick up a booking and ties into the explanation given above. Gallagher makes the most tackles per game on average in the West Brom squad and also commits the second-most fouls per game for them this season.
He is already on FOUR yellows meaning he will be suspended for the following game. That game is against Liverpool which is somewhat a write-off and not a game that will define their season. However, following that game they play fellow promoted side Leeds United and this is one he will want to be available for so it’d make sense for him to get a booking here and be available for the Leeds match.
Also, it’s Christmas and who doesn’t want a bit more time off over the holidays?
Finally, I’m going to dip into the shots markets. Aston Villa have the fifth-most shots per game on average when playing away (13.2) whereas the hosts conceded more shots per game than any other side on home soil (17).
With Villa expected to dominate and shoot on sight and West Brom sitting, I like Villa to rack up the shots.
To put it into perspective, of West Broms six home games this season, they’ve conceded 15 shots on four occasions (67%). The two in which it failed to land were against Burnley and Leicester City, sides who average relatively though in the shots per game department.