Villa Perspective from Up The Villa
In a refreshing change from years gone by, Paul Lambert is quite happy to rotate his players as he sees fit, meaning it can be quite tough to predict a starting eleven. Barring a small number of long-term injuries, the majority of our squad is fit, although we do have some concerns at the back.
Regular centre-back Ciaran Clark suffered a knee injury while on international duty with the Republic of Ireland, and his replacement Nathan Baker went down with a nasty looking ankle injury last time out at Fulham.
With Richard Dunne still out, that leaves Ron Vlaar as the only fit central defender in the senior squad, meaning Lambert might have to do a bit of tinkering.
It’s been a tough start to the season for the Villa, and it would have been nice to have more points on the board, especially considering we have consecutive games against Man United, Man City and Arsenal coming up next month.
We currently find ourselves one place above the relegation zone, and our lack of goals is a real concern. You can see what Lambert is trying to do, and it would be nice to see it all come together this weekend against his former charges.
It was one home win a piece last season against Norwich, so hopefully that tradition continues for this Saturday. Our 3-2 victory at Villa Park was remarkably the last time Gabby Agbonlahor scored at home, while the 2-0 away defeat on the last game of the season will mostly be remembered for both sets of fans cheering Paul Lambert’s name!
A few weeks later and Lambert was indeed our new gaffer, a decision the majority of Villa fans were very happy with. Although Lambert has played it down, his presence will add a lot of spice to a game that on paper, doesn’t look the most exciting.
Norwich to be winning at half time, Aston Villa to be winning at full time (2/1) at 24.00: Norwich will be up for this, particularly given the Lambert element previously mentioned. I expect them to try and start fast, but ultimately think we’ll have enough to get the victory.
Ron Vlaar to score the first goal at 28.00: We’re notoriously rubbish from set-pieces, but I think Barry Bannan might get a game Saturday, and he has the kind of delivery that Vlaar can certainly take advantage of. Given he’ll be the main target in the box, I think it’s a great price.
Matt Lowton to score at 16.00: He’s already scored a great goal at Villa Park this season, and loves to get forward. He’s more than capable of finding the net, and the price on offer represents real value.
Score Prediction: Aston Villa 3–1 Norwich (15.00).
Predicted Side: (4-4-2)
Norwich perspective from Holtamania
City go into the weekend off the back of a glorious, unexpected win over Arsenal and with a whole squad to pick from. Butterfield and Whittaker completed 90 minutes for the developmental squad in midweek but will be hard-pressed to break into a starting eleven that worked so hard in beating the Gunners – a victory they feel they haven’t got enough credit for.
Exceptional performances from Hoolahan, Tettey and Johnson in particular should see them nail down the centre of midfield, the area of the side with most competition for places, and they will be buoyed by Saturday’s result.
The Canaries will be hoping to use that result as a platform for the rest of the season. It’s been a slow start for us but the toughest series of games is done with and we now come up against teams around the same position as us.
Defeats against Liverpool and Chelsea masked some bright spots, but the Arsenal win showed we are more than capable of pulling out big performances. Another one is needed for a match all Norwich fans have been aching for since the summer.
Our games against Villa last year were a mixed back. At Villa Park we were exposed by Agbonlahor’s pace and Bent’s finishing, losing 3-2, but the return fixture was interesting if only for the Villa fans chanting - with prophetic accuracy - the name of our then manager Paul Lambert, whose move to Villa in the summer will add extra spice to this encounter.
It was the final day of the season then, and we ran out 2-0 winners over an insipid Villa side. Here's hoping it’ll be more of the same this weekend.
The stand out bet for me is Under 2.5 goals at 2.00. Both sides have been notably poor in front of goal this season and I expect things to continue in that vain, especially if our defence can shut down Bent and Agbonlahor as well as they did Giroud and Podolski last time out.
In fact I’d go further than that and back the home team not to score at 5.00. After last week’s pessimism I’m going in the opposite direction – I think we can keep them off the scoresheet.
A longer shot is my pick for First Goalscorer – Anthony Pilkington at 14.00. He opened the scoring last year with a peach of a freekick and did well last week, and I’ve got a feeling he’ll be up for this one again.
Score prediction: With these bets in mind, I’m going for Villa 0-2 Norwich at 22.00.
Predicted Team: (4-2-3-1)