Citizens too good for Villa
Ian Ogg previews Wednesday's games in the Barclays Premier League and he isn't expecting Villa to trip up Manchester City.
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It's all about goals on Wednesday night.
Assuming that neither Manchester City nor Liverpool slip up in their remaining fixtures then the Anfield side need to overturn a goal difference of nine while goal difference could be the difference between relegation and safety for both Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion.
In truth, the latter two sides look to have done enough already to retain their status at the expense of Norwich but Sunderland still need a point to be sure and, given their recent run, they will be keen on their chances of gaining that against West Brom while Aston Villa may take their foot off the gas now that their status is assured and City should need little incentive to take goal difference out of the equation.
Manchester City v Aston Villa (1945BST)
Manchester City need just four goals to score 100 in a top-flight league season for the first time since 1957-58 and their 150 goals in all competitions is 107 more than Aston Villa have managed. That's a ridiculous statistic and this could be a ridiculous mismatch - although Paul Lambert deserves credit for guiding his young side to safety and they are on course to match last season's points tally. The last four Premier League games between these sides at the Etihad have seen the home team triumph 5-0, 4-1, 4-0 and 3-1 and we should expect a similar outcome as City will be keen to ensure that there is no possibility of Liverpool bridging the goal difference gap (assuming no unforeseen results). The trouble is that those results are priced accordingly with the 3-0 scoreline rated at just 7/1 and it may be better to play the overs instead. Villa's away form has been key in keeping them up but their threat will be vastly reduced if Gabby Agbonlahor fails to recover from the injury that forced him off the pitch against Hull at the weekend as his pace is such a threat on the break and could have caused problems for the likes of Martin Demichelis. Backing City to win to nil was a popular and successful tactic under previous regimes but has become rather more expensive this season which means that it can now be backed at 10/11. The City backline has looked far more solid in recent weeks and it wouldn't be any great surprise to see Villa rather go through the motions now that their target for the season has been achieved. Therefore, it looks worth splitting stakes between that eventuality and there being over 3.5 goals, a result which would have collected in the last four Premier League matches between these sides in Manchester.
Verdict: Manchester City 5 Aston Villa 0
Manchester City have won 10 of their last 11 home games against Aston Villa in the Barclays Premier League (L1).
Aston Villa have taken just two points from their last seven Barclays Premier League away games (D2 L5).
Samir Nasri has scored or assisted a goal in six of his last nine PL apps for Man City.
Yaya Toure has scored or assisted 26 goals in 33 Premier League appearances this season - he had a hand in 12 goals in each of his previous three PL seasons.
Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion (1945BST)
A fascinating game between the sides in 17th and 16th place in the table where a draw would suit both teams as it would take the Albion out of reach of Norwich (who need a 19 goal swing in goal difference to overhaul WBA), while Sunderland have a vastly superior goal difference to the Canaries. Conspiracy theorists need look no further than West Brom's drawn games column to back up that outcome with the 15 stalemates significantly more than any other team in the division. Further ballast is provided by the OPTA stats below which detail Sunderland's abject record against the Baggies, but the momentum is certainly with the home side who are looking to secure a fourth successive Premier League win for the first time since December 2000, a run which has seen them collect more points from those three games than they had done in their previous 11 (8) and taken them to the brink of safety. Connor Wickham, with five goals and an assist, has played a vital role in that since returning from a loan spell with Leeds and the 21-year-old striker is around 9/2 to open the scoring and recent fixtures between these sides have seen plenty of goals with their last six encounters all featuring over 2.5. The layers are, however, predicting a tighter encounter with the unders marginally shorter with both sides coming into this fixture on different ends of 1-0 scorelines. It's possible that the two sides could play out a cautious, low scoring game but Gus Poyet doesn't strike me as the sort of manager that will want to surrender the momentum gained from their recent run by setting up his side for a draw. Pepe Mel also has a few points to make to the board at present while his claims that the squad needs to be overhauled could have an invigorating affect on the players. Both teams to score in a drawn game makes some appeal at 7/2 but I'll take a chance on history repeating itself and side with over 2.5 goals at even money.
Verdict: Sunderland 2 West Brom 1
Despite scoring in all six Barclays Premier League home games against West Brom, Sunderland have won just once (D2 L3).
The Baggies have won seven and drawn one of their last eight Barclays Premier League games against Sunderland, scoring 22 times in the process.
Sunderland have won only two of their 16 Premier League games against sides currently in the bottom half (D5 L9).
The Black Cats have scored only five goals in seven home games against teams currently in the bottom half, although four of these came in their last game at the Stadium of Light (vs Cardiff).