West Midlands v London: Villa play Palace and Hammers host WBA
All is quiet on New Year’s Day… until the football kicks off anyway.
Coral preview relegation candidates Crystal Palace (6/4 for the drop) and West Bromwich Albion (15/8) away at Aston Villa and West Ham United respectively in battles between Midlands and capital clubs.
Aston Villa v Crystal Palace
While Paul Lambert’s lads edged the reverse fixture 1-0 on December 2nd, both teams drew their last outing of 2014 0-0. A repeat scoreline is a 7/1 shot, while a share of the spoils whatever the result is a safer 9/4.
Because they beat Palace down at Selhurst Park 30 days ago, Villa start as 11/8 favourites to complete a league double over the Eagles, which is something the south London side did themselves last season.
Caretaker Keith Millen seems set to remain in charge of Palace, even if Alan Pardew can be persuaded to leave Newcastle United for a return to his old team from his playing days. The Eagles are 2/1 chances to beat Villa here.
Belgian striker Christian Benteke proved the difference between these two teams last time out, so is odds-on at 4/5 to net again anytime. If punters back him to score first, then a tasty 10/3 is on offer.
Palace’s victories over Villa in 2013/14 came courtesy of Dwight Gayle (15/8 anytime scorer chance) and Jason Puncheon (longer at 7/2). Millen may rotate his squad here, so both have a decent chance of being involved because of the congested festive fixture list.
England international Fabian Delph will be missing from the hosts’ midfield, while this may be the last outing for influential Eagles winger Yannick Bolasie before he depart for international duty with DR Congo at the Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea.
Palace will definitely be without captain Mile Jedinak, who has already left to link up with the Australia squad ahead of his country hosting the Asian Cup.
West Ham v West Brom
If there’s one fixture that could get Burundi-born Baggies striker Saido Berahino back on track, then it’s this one. Since being called up to the senior England squad, he’s failed to score, but netted home and away against the Hammers last term. Berahino is 2/1 in the anytime market.
Sam Allardyce’s side are odds-on 4/5 favourites to beat managerless Albion, however, as they go into the New Year in the top six. West Brom, who occupy a spot in the bottom five, are 7/2 outsiders, with a draw priced at 5/2.
Any repeat of the thrilling 3-3, in which Berahino got the Baggies a point, just over a year ago at Upton Park is fanciful, though, at 70/1. Big Sam’s faithful retainers Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan have hurt Albion in the past (the latter in the reverse fixture in December), so are well worth backing to score first at 4/1, and anytime at 7/2 respectively.
Rejuventaed Hammers target man Carroll has three in as many home games, while club captain Nolan was rested last time out against Arsenal. This may have been done by Allardyce with this game in mind.
Odds for a West Ham win are greatly improved if punters back them for victory and both teams to score at 3/1. This is a tasty price, as the Baggies have netted in three of their last four outings.