Fulham vs. Aston Villa Odds, Best Bets, Score Prediction
Last Time Out:
Fulham lost 2-1 to Leeds; Aston Villa lost 2-0 to Tottenham.
Aston Villa blanked Fulham 3-0 on Sept. 28 at Craven Cottage in London.
About the Matchup:
Fulham appeared to be on its way to safety after going five straight matches in February without a loss, picking up a pair of wins and three draws to move close to getting out of the bottom three. But then the calendar flipped to March, and the Cottagers missed out on getting any points with three consecutive losses at home. Fulham's now down to eight games left and still staring up at Newcastle, which means that every point is crucial if Fulham hopes to remain in the Premier League next season.
That's a problem because Aston Villa needs points just as badly as Fulham right now. The Lions aren't worried about relegation, as they're comfortably ahead of the bottom of the table. But with Liverpool and Arsenal not showing their best form, Villa is just seven points away from earning a Europa League spot, an accomplishment that would go a long way toward getting them back to where they believe they belong. However, the Lions aren't exactly playing like a Europa League side at the moment. Villa's failed to win in four matches and hasn't put home more than a single goal since Jan. 27. Which side can meet the moment here?
If the Cottagers could score, they wouldn't be in this mess right now. Unlike likely-doomed West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield United, Fulham actually puts in a solid effort on defense. The Cottagers couldn't stop Manchester City, but most times, it's pretty hard to score against them. In the seven matches before facing City, not one opponent found the net more than once against the Fulham defense.
But boy, is that offense weak. Only twice in the past four months has Fulham managed to score two goals, and only once all season have they topped that total. With captain Tom Cairney likely out for the year and leading scorer Bobby Reid a question mark at best, there's not a lot of reasons for optimism about Fulham ending its drought. If the Cottagers are going to get points out of this match, they're going to have to hit a fortunate strike and keep Villa out of the net for 90 minutes. That's certainly doable, but given that Villa waxed them in the first meeting, it's going to be a challenge.
Scouting Aston Villa:
Getting injured was probably the best thing that could have happened to Jack Grealish's bank account, as the Lions' captain has now proven just how badly his side needs him if it plans to reach its long-term goals. With Grealish on the pitch, Villa has been a top-half side with a reasonable hope of playing in Europe. Without him, Villa has one win in six matches and has often looked lost at sea.
Grealish will be back for this match, and the international match window might have served Villa well, as the Lions were looking rather worn down before taking a week off for international matches. Villa has now had time to recover and might be in a prime position to get back to playing the way it was in the first part of the season. When things have clicked, Villa have been excellent with their attack (such as in their 7-2 destruction of Liverpool and a 3-0 win over Arsenal), but they haven't scored more than once in a match since January.
Dan's Score Prediction
Villa have been in wretched form lately, but this is an opponent they had no problems with earlier in the season, and they're back to being a full-strength squad. As badly as Fulham needs something out of this match, I don't think it's going to happen here. Give me Villa to emerge with a 1-0 victory at +625.