Tim Sherwood finds his derby nous being questioned at the worst possible time: immediately before his first second-city showdown with Birmingham, in which halting a run of six matches without a 90-minute win is a necessity.
Successive defeats to midland foes Leicester and West Brom have seen Aston Villa drop to 17th and forced them to query whether the players they lost this summer were better than the replacements.
Only an opening-day triumph at Bournemouth, coupled with Stoke, Newcastle and Sunderland’s enduringly empty “W” columns are keeping them outside the bottom three.
The feeling of bragging-right disrobement that Sherwood confronted after the Foxes and Baggies setbacks wasn’t a novelty either. He managed to squeeze two reverses to both Arsenal and West Ham and a 4-0 at Chelsea into his first five months in management at Tottenham in 2013/14.
However, while this makes them vulnerable for Tuesday’s televised Capital One Cup tie with rivals Birmingham, who are unbeaten in three against them, eliminated them en route to lifting this trophy in 2010/11 and are seventh in the Championship, there is a compelling case for the defence.
Though derbies have been Villa’s undoing this term, they were their salvation under Sherwood last spring, particularly the two victories in five days over buoyant West Brom in March, a month that they commenced 19th in the Premier League.
Similarly, a 4-3 win over West Brom was decisive in 2013/14, having been preceded by five points from eight games, and four points acquired against Wolves in 2011/12 was ultimately the difference between relegation and survival. This time, it is Birmingham’s turn to show some neighbourly love.
The Blues have lost three of their four trips to Villa Park in the past decade – 3-1, 5-1 and 1-0 – clinging on for a goalless draw in the other, and have lost four in a row away to Premier League clubs in this competition.
Villa are 19/20 to prevail, with Birmingham 3/1 and the draw 5/2, but perhaps the most enticing price of all is the generous Ladbrokes boost from 5/2 to 7/2 on a home success in which both teams score. The hosts are clean sheet-less in six fixtures, yet netted 10 times across the latest five.
Additionally, don’t forget that, as a domestic televised game, the Sharp Shooter offer is also applicable*
*Double your odds if your 1st Goalscorer bet scores in the opening 25 minutes in selected live TV games.
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