Villa vs West Ham – MacDonald and Grant begin new eras

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What a difference a few months makes as Aston Villa head into the opening game of the Premier League season at home to West Ham in similar turmoil to the way their opponents ended the last campaign.

Martin O’Neill’s decision to resign as Villa boss just five days before the start of the season has left the club in slight disarray, with reserve team manager Kevin MacDonald being placed in temporary charge.

However, Villa’s 2-1 loss at Upton Park last season remains their only reverse against the Hammers in their last eight meetings, while they have only been defeated once in the last 13 clashes at Villa Park.

MacDonald has stated that all of Villa’s squad will begin with a clean slate and he faces a minor defensive crisis with James Collins and Carlos Cuellar both definitely out and Curtis Davies battling to overcome a knee complaint.

There are also doubts on the fitness of regular strike pairing John Carew and Gabriel Agbonlahor, with Villa 5/6 to begin the campaign with three points.

One bit of good news at Villa Park is the decision that Ashley Young is likely to stay at the club and his performances in a more central role in pre-season could make him a solid bet at 10/1 to be first goalscorer.

Avram Grant took over the reins at West Ham during the close season from Gianfranco Zola and has wasted little time in adding players including old Portsmouth colleagues Tal Ben Haim and Frederic Piquionne to his squad.

The pair are in line to start, although Thomas Hitzlsperger is in danger of missing out on a return to his old stomping ground after limping out of Germany’s midweek friendly draw in Denmark.

West Ham have also won on the opening day of the season five times in the past six years and are 10/3 to continue this run, while a repeat of last year’s goalless draw at Villa Park is 8/1.

Villa lost a game they were widely expected to win at home to Wigan on the opening day of last season and West Ham are 16/1 to also claim a 2-0 success. See the whole correct score betting market.

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