Aston Villa to leave Midlands rivals trailing in their wake

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Aston Villa were the only Midlands team to win on the opening weekend of the Premier League, and their victory away at Arsenal demonstrated why they will be aiming for a top half finish this season.

Villa can be backed to be the top Midlands club in the league at 9/10, with West Brom second favourites at 2/1, and Stoke trailing at 10/3.

Despite West Brom’s impressive campaign last year, where they never dropped below ninth place in the league, they struggled in the transfer market over the summer, and lost 1-0 at home to Southampton on the opening day.

Matej Vydra and Nicolas Anelka will be relied on to make up the shortfall in goals left by Romelu Lukaku, but although they are unlikely to be dragged into a relegation battle, they will fall behind Villa this year.

Paul Lambert survived a rocky first year at Villa Park, but with his young side now more experienced, and bolstered by some early forays into the transfer market and Christian Benteke’s eventual decision to stay, they are in better shape than their neighbours.

The Villa defence is still a concern – their last clean sheet in the league was on the 8th December – but the integration of Antonio Luna into the back four, and the return of Yacouba Sylla from injury, will help.

Stoke almost snatched a late point at Anfield, and there were some encouraging signs that they will move forward under Mark Hughes, but their lack of firepower makes them relegation candidates at 3/1 to go down.

Only QPR scored fewer goals than Stoke last season, and their defence looked porous at Liverpool, frequently relying on the brilliance of Asmir Begovic to keep them in the match.

Villa are the most settled of the trio, and after the perfect start to their season they are set to finish above their Midlands rivals.

All odds and markets accurate as of time and date of publishing.

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