Aston Villa vie with relegation rivals QPR in crucial clash
Aston Villa sit just three points above second-bottom club QPR and, with only six Premier League matchdays to go to secure top-flight survival following this duel, neither side can afford another defeat.
The Villans (11/10 favourites for victory with Coral) have home advantage, but that may not count for much, as the west Midlands club have won just three league outings at Villa Park this campaign.
Speaking ahead of this basement battle, new coach Tim Sherwood told media: “This is without doubt the biggest game of the season for Villa and possibly one of the biggest in a number of years and this is the biggest of my managerial career.”
Villa have won only two of their past six league outings and are running out of chances to turn things around, but can take confidence from history when it comes to this fixture. The Birmingham-based team have lost just one of their last nine battles at home against the Hoops across all competitions, so are 23/10 to split the spoils.
The Villans have been toothless up top for most of this term, grabbing just 20 goals in 31 league games, but Sherwood’s arrival seems to have stirred Belgium sharpshooter Christian Benteke back into action.
Villa need to start scoring more to survive, and bullish Benteke has bagged three in his past four across all competitions, so is a fantastic 9/2 to net first. The big Belgian also features in a marvellous matchday special, where you can back Villa to win and Benteke to score at a superb 7/2.
Fellow forward Gabriel Agbonlahor is also back in-form and should stretch QPR’s cumbersome backline. The Birmingham-born attacker is 6/1 to strike last, or 9/1 to bag a brace for his boyhood club.
Despite Aston Villa’s improved attack, the Hoops should not be discounted. The Londoners have triumphed in just two of their last 15 duels, but looked like they may have turned a corner last time out.
QPR crushed West Bromwich Albion 4-1 and certainly have goals in them, with strike partners Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora more than capable of troubling their hosts.
Austin put two past Villa at Loftus Road earlier this season, and is 11/1 to score two or more again to help the Hoops to a double over their relegation rivals. Meanwhile, Zamora was on target last time out and is 8/1 to net first.
On-loan attacker Eduardo Vargas is ruled out for the remainder of the season, but productive wingman Matt Phillips is 7/2 to poach a goal anytime.
As QPR, 11/4 to snatch all three points, attempt to clamber out of the bottom three, Villa are aiming to avoid being sucked back in to the drop zone, meaning this tussle could really shape the rest of both clubs’ upcoming clashes.