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Rupert Wyman 16th Jan 2010 - 18:39

Villa to put another nail in the Hammers' coffin

Aston Villa returned to their counter-attacking best at Blackburn on Thursday as they dominated and secured a 1-0 semi-final first-leg win in the Carling Cup. If Villa play like that again versus West Ham then there will only be one winner.

However with the match taking place at Villa Park the onus will be on Villa to take the game to the visitors and this is something that Martin O'Neill's side sometimes fail to do convincingly as the side is set up to counter attack with the pace of Gabriel Agbonlahor, Emile Heskey, Ashley Young, James Milner and Stewart Downing.

Therefore there is reason to be cautious about Villa's short odds of 8/15 to win the match, especially as they have lost their last two league matches without scoring a goal.

Nevertheless West Ham are struggling and are still contending with a lengthy injury list so one has to think that Villa will be able to beat the Hammers. In addition the last time West Ham played away from home they were awful as Tottenham dominated and easily won the game.

Following Saturday's matches West Ham dropped back into the bottom three and therefore will be hoping for a morale boosting win (6/1) but that would certainly be a brave bet and one that I am not going to entertain thoughts of as they have won none of their last nine Premier League away matches, including losing the last three.

Their poor away record when coupled with the fact that Gianfranco Zola is without the services of Carlton Cole, Zavon Hines, Herita Ilunga and Guillermo Franco as well as having doubts over Scott Parker and Mark Noble means that I like the look of Aston Villa -1 in the handicap market at 8/5.

With no Cole and Franco, Zola's attacking options are extremely limited and much will rest on the shoulders of Alessandro Diamanti. The Italian, with six goals to his name this season, is the most likely option at 9/1 to notch the first goal of the game for the Hammers. However, I won't be backing him as I think Villa will be able to keep a clean sheet (8/11).

But the best bet must be Villa to win to nil at 19/20. The most likely scoreline for me is 2-0, which is a 9/2 shot.

For Villa I think Milner looks a fantastic bet to score at 9/4. The England World Cup hopeful has been in outstanding form this season and this was highlighted by his goal against Blackburn.

Available at the same price is Young, who looked dangerous against Rovers and with his free kick taking ability he always has a good chance of obliging.

The predicted defeat for West Ham would be their 11th of their Premier League campaign and with the ownership of the club still up in the air then it will be a further demoralising event in a disappointing season so far.



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