Unheralded Villa the value call
Aston Villa can secure a vital three points by beating Sunderland on Monday night according to Ben Coley.
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Aston Villa v Sunderland (2000 BST)
I've little doubt that come kick-off on Monday evening, Sunderland will have been well supported to win at Aston Villa.
And why shouldn't they be? After all, this is a side who have won their last two games without conceding and the impact of Paolo Di Canio is crystal clear. It'll be the talk of Monday Night Football and punters will almost certainly buy into the hype.
Those six points taken from games against Newcastle and Everton have taken Sunderland out of the real battle to stay alive - they're now fifth-favourites for the drop - whereas Villa's defeat at Manchester United leaves them firmly up against it.
It's therefore hard to argue against the fact that Sunderland carry the greater momentum into this match, and it's also possible to conclude that they've the greater quality and depth, regardless.
That, at least, is the simple view, which isn't to diminish its credibility.
However, the more I look at the game, the more I think it'll pay to side with a home side whose own exploits haven't perhaps gained the praise they deserve.
Monday's defeat at Old Trafford may not have been ideal, but it was most certainly excusable - and you can find an excuse for each of Villa's defeats this side of January simply by looking at the quality of their opponents.
Paul Lambert's side lost 2-1 to Liverpool, 1-0 to Manchester City and 2-1 to Arsenal. They were odds-on to lose all three games and defeats by one goal represent perfectly reasonable outcomes.
Look at the opposition they've been fancied to compete with, and they've seldom disappointed. They've beaten West Ham, Reading, QPR and Stoke and drawn with both Fulham and, impressively, Everton.
To me that speaks to a squad of players who've rallied round since an embarrassing winter which saw them knocked out of the Capital One Cup by Bradford and thumped at Chelsea.
And it's why I think they're capable of putting an end to Sunderland's purple patch under Di Canio, who has found a happy marriage of passion, glimpses of quality and, all importantly, a bit of luck.
Quotes of 13/10 about a home win strike me as fair but, as detailed earlier, I wouldn't be surprised to see punters latch on to Sunderland close to kick-off which could see Villa drift to as big as 6/4.
So instead, I'll take Coral's 19/5 about the hosts conceding but still managing to win. Their last eight wins have seen the opposition score and while the quality of Christian Benteke in particular shouldn't be underestimated, their defence is most certainly questionable.
With that in mind, both teams to score is an obvious policy for those who wish to play safer but the value here looks to be with the side whose own progress over the last three months has rather been overlooked.
Verdict: Aston Villa 3 Sunderland 1