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Both sides managed only draws last weekend. United entertained Newcastle, who put in a battling performance – with the help of a controversial penalty decision – to come away with a 1-1 draw. Villa went to Swansea on Sunday and played out a 0-0 draw in difficult circumstance under the shadow of the announcement of Gary Speed’s death.
With Sir Alex Ferguson resting many of his first team for the midweek Carling Cup quarter-final, his big guns are likely to return for this one. Having said that, with a crucial Champions League clash in Basel on Wednesday, Fergie will have something of a balancing act on his hands, so may opt to rest one or two players. Either way United are rightly favourites to get the three points and can be backed at odds of 8/11 (Paddy Power – £100 free betting) to do just that.
Villa have quietly been creeping up the table in recent weeks and are currently in eight spot on 16 points, seven behind Arsenal and Liverpool. Their rather unspectacular progress under Alex McLeish could be as much a result of the fixtures they have enjoyed as the team playing particularly well. Their three Premier League wins have come against Blackburn, Wigan and Norwich and they are yet to gain victory on the road. Add to that the fact they have been defeated at Villa Park by West Brom and Bolton and you have to say they will be lucky to avoid defeat on Saturday.
Villa are priced at 19/4 (Stan James – £150 free bets), but we’d need odds of double that to be tempted into a flutter on them. Instead, take United to be winning at half time and full time at 17/10 (188bet) and back Javier Hernandez to open the scoring at 5/1 (Bwin).