Tottenham and Aston Villa start the new year with a clash in North London this afternoon where Antonio Conte’s troops will be aiming to make home advantage count against an Aston Villa outfit still forming an identity under new boss, Unai Emery.
Spurs clawed their back from two goals down to grind a point out of their skirmish with Brentford on Boxing Day and another topsy-turvy tussle could be in the works when they host a Villains side that possesses several potent counter-attacking weapons in their armoury.
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Richarlison is still nursing a hamstring injury and is unavailable for Tottenham, though Rodrigo Bentancur and Cristian Romero are back in contention following a ban and World Cup duty respectively.
Fraser Forster enjoyed a rare start between the sticks at Brentford last time out, though first-choice keeper Hugo Lloris is expected to be handed the gloves again today.
World Cup winner Emiliano Martinez is back at Villa and the controversial Argentinean goalkeeper could replace Robin Olsen in Unai Emery’s XI today. Diego Carlos and Jacob Ramsey are still in the treatment room and won’t play, however.
Veteran defender Ashley Young didn’t cover himself in glory against Liverpool in the Villains’ last outing and he could be replaced at right-back by the more reliable Matty Cash.
While Tottenham’s results this season have been largely positive, many of the underlying statistics from their performances suggest they’ve been walking the tightrope between success and disaster all too often.
Spurs have been outperforming both their xG for and against this term and despite sitting in a lofty fourth position, only four teams in the Premier League have been conceding more shots per 90.
The Jekyll and Hyde manner of their displays was evident again in their 2-2 draw at Brentford on Boxing Day.
Remarkably, despite sitting a full eight places below Tottenham in the current Premier League shakedown, Aston Villa have posted stronger defensive numbers than their hosts in the shots, shots on target and xG against stakes per 90.
The Villains have been toiling at the opposite end however, where they have managed to notch a measly 1.06 times per 90. Villa have also been a little on the over-aggressive side, collecting the second-highest number of cards in the division so far (38), and they are priced at a generous-looking 5/6 to pick up more cards than Spurs today.
Player Shots and Shots on Target
It comes as little surprise to see Tottenham’s dynamic duo, Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, occupying positions one and two in both shooting metrics, and that prolific pair mustered seven attempts between them at Brentford on Boxing Day.
Finding value for either in the markets is tricky today however, though Danish midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is available at a more appetizing 6/4 to lodge at least one shot on target.
Hojbjerg managed three shots against the Bees last week, one of which was accurate and the 27-year-old racked up three attempts when Spurs last played Villa in April.
Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey worked well in tandem as a traditional front-two against Liverpool on Boxing Day, hitting seven shots and four attempts on target between them against the Reds.
Their performances were impactful enough to earn a second outing as a pair and to convince bettors to stick with them in the markets today. At 8/11 and 5/4 to hit at last one shot on target respectively, Watkins and Bailey bring excellent value to the table.
Player Goals and Assists
Harry Kane plundered his 13th Premier League goal of the campaign when he notched against Brentford, though the England man hasn’t scored in any of his last three appearances against Villa.
Instead, Son Heung-min might be a preferable option in the anytime scorer stakes. The Korean attacker has been unusually subdued this term, though he did net a hattrick when Tottenham last faced the Villains in April.
If you’re looking for an angle in the assists market, Dejan Kulusevski – who is Spurs’ leading goal creator (five) – could fit the bill. The Swede ran Lucas Digne ragged in April, where he set up the fourth Tottenham goal (6/4 anytime assist).
Danny Ings is Villa’s leading scorer in the league this season, however he is unlikely to start today despite netting twice in the club’s last away game at Brighton on November 13th.
Instead, Ollie Watkins is more worthy of your attention this afternoon. The 27-year-old’s consolation goal against Liverpool on Boxing Day would have given him a timely confidence boost and Watkins has scored on each of his last two visits to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Eric Dier is the most composed member of Tottenham’s central-defensive trio in possession and as such he is usually tasked with moving the ball from the first to the middle third.
Dier has played 70 or more passes in each of his last four home appearances for Spurs and at 4/6 to beat the same target today, the England international could be a savvy addition to your coupon.
Few of Tottenham’s players elsewhere have been pulling up trees in the individual passes per 90 department, so it’s probably wise to steer clear of the other candidates here.
Aston Villa have enjoyed just 41.6% of the ball on average across their first three Premier League matches since Unai Emery’s appointment, so it’s safe to assume they won’t be a possession-based side under the Spaniard.
Holding midfielder Douglas Luiz did play 64 passes in the Villains’ reverse to Liverpool last week, however, and if you’re determined to add an Aston Villa player to your docket today, he could be the one to consider at 5/6 to play more than 50 passes.
Tottenham have several hard-hitting combatants to call upon in midfield and Rodrigo Benantcur and Yves Bissouma both look like excellent card candidates today, though only one of them is likely to start.
Bissouma and Harry Kane are almost a match for Bentancur in terms of cards collected, though Uruguayan Bentancur has committed 20 fouls compared to the 11 committed by Bissouma and Kane.
Elsewhere, Ivan Perisic might be thrust into action against the combative John McGinn, who has been thrown forward into a more attacking role by Unai Emery.
John McGinn and Emiliano Buendia are listed among Villa’s most-fouled players this term and deployed in hybrid attacking roles by Unai Emery, the schemers could clash with Bissouma, Bentancur and Perisic this afternoon.
On Boxing Day, Liverpool racked up 12 fouls against Villa, which was a notable four more than their usual average per game, and many of those free kicks were conceded in areas that McGinn and Buendia patrolled. Watch out for similar patterns today.
Match-Ups to watch
Ivan Bentancur/Yves Bissouma vs Emiliano Buendia
Ivan Perisic vs John McGinn
Aston Villa Cards
Aston Villa have collected ten bookings in three Premier League matches under Unai Emery, seven of which were picked up in the Villains’ only away fixture under the Spaniard last month (vs Brighton), so bettors should expect some hefty challenges from the visitors today.
Defenders Matty Cash and Tyrone Mings (three cards each) could irk match official John Brooks if they tread on foul magnets, Son Heung-Min and Harry Kane too often.
Hot-headed forward Leon Bailey has a streak mean enough to leave a mark or two on Clement Lenglet. The Jamaican has been carded five times in his last nine appearances for Villa in league and cup, and the 25-year-old is a big price at 3/1 to enter the book again.
Harry Kane (21) and Son Heung-Min (17) have been the club’s most-fouled players this season in terms of overall numbers and as their team’s most-threatening pair, they should have another dose of aggression to absorb today, especially from Tyrone Mings and Matty Cash.
Clement Lenglet meanwhile, tends to receive a nibble or two from attackers aiming to knock him out of his stride and Leon Bailey will be out to ruffle his feathers this afternoon.
Match-Ups to watch
Matty Cash vs Son Heung-Min
Tyrone Mings vs Harry Kane
Leon Bailey vs Clement Lenglet
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