Tom Carnduff has gone big for Friday night football with a huge 750/1 headline tip as Aston Villa welcome Sheffield United.
For details of advised bookmakers and each-way terms, visit our transparent tipping record
Aston Villa v Sheffield United (Villa Park, 1945 GMT, Sky Sports Football)
Friday night football tends to be low-scoring affairs, but there is a real possibility of bucking the trend when Sheffield United visit Villa Park.
Two sides who like to play attacking football should set this up to be an entertaining clash. They're in the top-five for goals scored in the Championship this season, showing that they do have an eye for goal.
Both sides possess prolific strikers with Tammy Abraham and Billy Sharp banging long surpassing double figures for the season, while creative midfielders who aren't afraid to try their luck have contributed to those numbers.
That's why there is value in the stats-based betting in this game, and a 750/1 shout with Sky Bet that may seem remarkable to suggest, but does have a chance when you break down the individual factors.
It involves four midfielders, all of which have demonstrated their abilities to contribute at various points throughout the season. Those four are Conor Hourihane, John McGinn, Oliver Norwood and John Fleck.
We'll start off by looking at the Aston Villa duo in Hourihane and McGinn, two players who I'm expecting to play the more significant part in this bet.
They both play regular minutes in the Villa midfield, and have thrived upon the attacking football that Dean Smith has brought to the club. In particular, the injury to Jack Grealish has allowed them more freedom to drive forward.
Grealish could well return from a shin injury by the end of the month, according to Sky Sports, but in the meantime it's down to the likes of Hourihane and McGinn to try and fill the role created by his absence.
What we have seen is that Villa have had to make that slight tweak to the formation to accommodate a key absence. In midfield, Glenn Whelan and Birkir Bjarnason often sit back in front of the defence, which allows others in that area to either join the attack or start in a more advanced position.
Those players are often Hourihane and McGinn and they've benefited from it. We knew that McGinn liked to shoot prior to Grealish's absence, but the number of shots has increased since that slight tweak. He'd had at least four shots in just two of their 19 games including the 2-2 draw at West Brom, where Grealish picked up the injury, and he has hit that same target in three of the nine games since.
Hourihane meanwhile, has been consistent with efforts towards goal. He's had a shot in all but two games since mid-October, four of those last six seeing more than one.
It's clear that they have little fear in trying to score. The shots will be there, it's just a case of hoping that a few of them are on target. While it may seem a big ask, it's worth noting that the duo had six shots on target between them in Villa's last home game, a 2-1 victory over Ipswich, alongside other recent home games against Hull and QPR seeing a combined six shots.
On the flipside, Norwood has been one of the Blades' standout players this season with a number of man of the match performances throughout the Championship campaign.
He's had a direct involvement in eight league goals, and with seven yellow cards on his tally, it's clear to see that he is someone involved in the heart of the midfield battle. Norwood has also caught the eye with more than one goal from distance.
That has been a real characteristic of his style of play. 93% of his shots in the Championship have been from outside the area, showing he is a player who truly does possess confidence. There's also been numerous games where he has had more than one shot, including their recent victory over QPR.
This may be a game where Sheffield United won't get the number of attacks that they would hope for in a game at Bramall Lane for example. Villa know that home points will be crucial if they are to reach the play-offs this season, and a result against a high-flying Blades side will hugely boost their confidence for the upcoming run-in.
Alongside Norwood in midfield is Fleck, whose performances have not only seen an involvement with the Scotland national set-up but also interest from the Premier League, with West Ham seeing a late January bid rejected.
While Billy Sharp and David McGoldrick, as expected, dominate the shots statistics for United this season, sitting behind them in third is Fleck, which shows that he has been unlucky not to have more direct involvement that those four goals.
He has been involved in the attacks in recent weeks though. Their last three Championship games have seen six shots from the midfielder, with a standout performance against Bolton last time out helping his side grab the points.
We can analyse the shots statistics and come to a conclusion that Fleck does have what is required for his part of this bet, but his style of play could be suited to a game like this where the midfield area will be key.
During his time at the club, we've seen that Fleck has confidence on the ball. He isn't afraid to drive forward and look to exploit any space that does appear. Dribbling is certainly a strength.
Villa will be eager to keep the Blades at bay, but Fleck does possess the ability to beat that holding midfielder. If it is Whelan in that role, as has been the case in recent weeks, you'd back Fleck to have the better of that battle throughout the evening.
If it does come down to the home side looking to force the visitors into shots from distance, then it will be of little issue to Norwood or Fleck. The majority of their shots this season have come from distance, so they won't have too many problems if they aren't allowed to drive into the box.
In terms of the result, a draw may be the best route to go down here the mixed fortunes of Villa at home and United on their travels. Four of Villa's last seven at Villa Park have finished with the points being shared, while the same can be said for two of the Blades' last four.
I am going to go against the Friday night trend and predict goals in this one. Those Villa Park season ticket holders have been treated to goals this season, with their last eight at home seeing at least three goals.
We're going for that little bit extra though and taking the 2/1 available on over 3.5 goals. Six of the above eight have seen that target hit, and given the attacking sides involved, we have every chance of seeing that run extended to seven in nine.
An even shorter price bet that looks likely is the 8/13 best price with William Hill on both teams scoring here. Definitely one to consider for those RequestABet factors.
Score prediction: Aston Villa 2-2 Sheffield United (Sky Bet odds: 12/1)
Best bet: Over 3.5 goals in the game at 2/1
- Aston Villa are unbeaten in their last 11 home league games against Sheffield United (W7 D4), last suffering defeat in January 1966 in the top-flight (0-2).
- Sheffield United have only won one of their seven away league games against Aston Villa in the second tier (D2 L4) – a 3-1 win in February 1960.
- Aston Villa have found the back of the net in each of their last 27 league games at Villa Park – their longest such scoring run since a streak of 33 ending in December 1983.
- Billy Sharp has scored with six of his last 10 shots in the Championship for Sheffield United.
- Tammy Abraham has scored 12 goals in his last seven Championship appearances at Villa Park for Aston Villa.
- Sheffield United striker David McGoldrick has been involved in seven goals in his last six Championship starts (5 goals, 2 assists).