Blues to keep it clean again
Ian Ogg previews Tuesday's action in the Barclays Premier League and doesn't expect Chelsea's bubble to burst at the Hawthorns.
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There are four games in total and our man is also keen on West Ham continuing their recent revival when they take on Norwich.
Our match-by-match verdict can be read in full below:
A big game for both sides with Cardiff needing to bounce back from their derby defeat at the weekend and Villa looking to get back on track having failed to build on their recent derby victory. The good news for Villa is that Gabby Agbonlahor is back in their ranks and that this game takes place in Wales rather than Birmingham. Paul Lambert's men have gained 16 of their 27 points on their travels and, as we've said plenty of times this season, look far better set up to counter attack. However, they are facing a side who have taken points off both Manchester sides at Cardiff City Stadium and the home team have added the trickery of Wilfried Zaha and have Craig Bellamy back and looking dangerous. Villa have taken four points from their last three away games, winning at Sunderland and drawing at Liverpool while only losing out to an 85th-minute goal against Everton. Cardiff were disappointing on Saturday and they were indebted to a fine performance from David Marshall to take all three points against Norwich prior to that and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would appear to have his work cut out. Villa won the reverse fixture 2-0 and have won 1-0 away at Norwich as well as securing goalless draws at West Ham and Hull and it's not too difficult to envisage them pulling off another smash and grab. It's certainly tempting to back them to cement their mid-table position but I can't quite bring myself to trust them at 2/1 or in the draw-no-bet market at around 11/10. In Bellamy and Zaha, Cardiff have two players who are capable of providing a bit of magic while the likes of Kenwyne Jones, Peter Whittingham and Fraizer Campbell are decent support players. It's a top price of 5/6 for both sides to score and I think that's worth taking about a scenario which would have seen you collect in seven of Villa's 12 away games. Cardiff are hardly prolific but their new-look strike force has goals in them and they should come out with all guns blazing as they look to assuage their fans at the earliest opportunity.
Back Villa to win 2-1 at 10/1 with Sky Bet
Aston Villa have won seven of their last eight matches in all competitions against Cardiff (W7 L1).
Nine different players have scored for Cardiff at the Cardiff City Stadium this season, but only one of these has netted more than once there (Fraizer Campbell - 4).
Cardiff have conceded a Premier League-high nine headed goals in 2013/14 so far.
Cardiff have conceded the most goals in the final 15 minutes of league games this season, both in total (18) and proportion (41%).
It seems likely that Hull City's survival in the Premier League rests with their home form unless Steve Bruce can suddenly find a formula to make them more effective away from home with Saturday's win at Sunderland - where they faced 10 men for all but four minutes - just their second of the season. Shane Long's pace may aid in that respect and the former West Brom frontman has hit the ground running at his new home with two goals in three games, but he could find life difficult against a Southampton defence that is usually quite hard to breach having conceded fewer goals on their travels than any team other than Chelsea. That makes the 'unders' of immediate interest but the 8/13 (under 2.5 goals) is easy enough to pass up and this isn't a game where the current prices set the pulse racing. Hull had been in a poor run of form prior to the weekend with one point from their previous five league games, albeit in a run which saw them face Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs. Southampton, in contrast, are unbeaten in five since a home defeat against Mourinho's men and, since an August loss at Carrow Road, have only lost on their travels at Everton, Chelsea and Arsenal in the league. That may be sufficient to tempt a few punters in at 21/20 and they have enough talent in their forward ranks to be a threat to any side but Hull are no pushovers on their home turf and the 11/10 draw-no-bet about the home side comes under consideration. As has become obvious, I'm struggling to form a strong case for one clear result ahead of the other two and, with none of the prices standing out as being demonstrably wrong, this is a game I'll sit out.
Back a 1-1 draw at 9/2 with Sky Bet
Hull have won just one of their last five Barclays Premier League home matches (W1 D2 L2).
Southampton have not won back-to-back away games in the Premier League since September 2001 (103 matches).
Jay Rodriguez has scored seven goals in his last eight Premier League appearances away from home.
Shane Long has scored in back-to-back Premier League appearances for the seventh time in his career, but he is yet to score in three successive appearances in the competition.
I don't know what Kevin Nolan got up to during his enforced absence following his ridiculous red card against Fulham but I wouldn't mind finding out (I think.....) as the West Ham skipper has re-discovered his scoring touch with a vengeance. Four goals in two games could lead to many more punters looking for more 'chicken tonight' in the first goalscorer market at 6/1. It's hardly as though the Hammers are blessed with striking talent and, with Andy Carroll sidelined for his glancing blow on Chico Flores, the burden once again falls on the shoulders of Carlton Cole but Nolan has readily taken up the slack. Wingers Matt Jarvis and Stewart Downing looked lively at the weekend as both players look to recapture the form that once saw them don an England shirt and that could spell trouble for the visitors. Norwich have netted just eight times on their travels and, although the Irons' reasonable defensive record owes much to their away form, they could struggle against a team that hasn't conceded in their last three games. Norwich may have been embarrassed by the bigger sides but they have been competitive against the teams around them in the table, winning away at Stoke and West Brom and only going down by a goal to Hull and Cardiff and drawing with Palace and Sunderland. The bookies are alive to that with many firms quoting a tempting odds-against about the home team to try to entice the punter in and it's a temptation that I can't quite resist. It's also tempting to boost the price by taking the Hammers to win to nil; Swansea's blank was the fifth by a visiting side (Cardiff, Villa, Fulham and Sunderland the others) in 12 games but, as I've suggested, Norwich are capable of causing problems here so if we're going to throw caution to the wind and back the Hammers then I think we can do better than that. The Hammers are enjoying their best spell of the season and backing them to continue that run by margins of 1-0 and 2-0 at 7/1 and 21/2 makes some appeal.
Back West Ham to win 2-0 at 8/1 with Sky Bet
Norwich have won just one of their last nine Premier League away matches (W1 D2 L6).
In the last 10 Premier League games at the Boleyn Ground, West Ham have either kept a clean sheet (four times) or conceded exactly three goals (six times).
The Hammers have won three and lost none of their last six competitive home games against Norwich.
On the face of it, the 4/7 about Chelsea taking all three points appears to be a perfectly reasonable price but it's a slight concern that they have a FA Cup tie away at Manchester City on Saturday and that, one would think, is bound to impact on the team selection. The Albion are enduring a wretched run with just one win in 16, although they have drawn five of those games including a fortuitous 1-1 draw with Liverpool when Kolo Toure gifted Victor Anichebe the equaliser. They drew their previous home game against Everton and raced to a 2-0 lead at Villa Park before falling to a 4-3 defeat in a remarkable derby which suggests things aren't, perhaps, quite as bad as they seem at first glance. Thievy Bifouma looks as though he could be a shrewd acquisition judging by his second-half performance against Palace and Ben Foster continues to perform well in goal, but Chelsea's defence is the best in the league and West Brom seem likely to struggle to break them down; after all, they have conceded just three goals in their last 11 games in all competitions. Eden Hazard, Willian and Oscar are justifying the decision to let Juan Mata move to Old Trafford and the former has shown signs of reaching a terrific understanding with Samuel Eto'o while Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah have both shown promise since their arrival. Chelsea have actually lost their last two fixtures in Sandwell and Albion took a point away from their clash at the Bridge earlier this season but Mourinho's team have looked like a different outfit in recent weeks. They still have a striker problem to solve but they're working around that issue well enough and, regardless of the important weekend fixture, Mourinho won't want his side to lose momentum now that they sit top of the table. The Special One is sure to have his side focused on the job in hand and the 29/20 about Chelsea to win to nil makes plenty of appeal to me.
Back Chelsea to win 2-0 at 11/2 with Sky Bet
West Brom have won just one of their last seven Barclays Premier League matches at the Hawthorns (W1 D4 L2).
Chelsea have kept clean sheets in each of their last four league away games.
The Baggies have kept just three clean sheets in their last 22 Premier League games on home soil.
Demba Ba has scored six goals in six Premier League appearances against West Brom; more than against any other opponent.
- The Cardiff v Aston Villa game is being televised live in the UK on BT Sport.