West Ham United vs Aston Villa
If you had asked fans of either of these sides would they be happy to be in the Premier League top eight going into late November, one suspects they would have bitten your hand off.
That they have done so with two managers – one much maligned, another few had heard of in the wider football world until his work at Villa Park – makes their start to the congested 2020/21 campaign even better.
Potentially, depending on other results, either one or West Ham or Aston Villa could even finish the weekend in the top six – a throwback to days when their place in the top cluster of clubs was not an irregular occurrence.
Let’s start with David Moyes, a man who deserved a shot at the Manchester United job seven years ago but who was quickly overwhelmed by the demands of the biggest job in the country, possibly in football.
The damage caused to his reputation form that nine-month experience barely improved during spells at Real Sociedad and Sunderland but at West Ham – now in his second spell – he has regained some of the respect he earned during a decade at Everton.
While the Scot is probably limited in how far he can take the east Londoners, it must be acknowledged he has bought well, improved players and deserves a new contract.
When he returned to the club just under a year ago promising stability, many supporters were aghast, judging the appointment as further evidence of broken promises from club owners David Gold and David Sullivan.
Yet Moyes kept West Ham up again. He has then turned them into a better side: tougher to beat and more effective going forward. His signings have settled and he has helped the club navigate a daunting fixture list at the start of this campaign, including emphatic victories over Wolves and Leicester and a battling point against Manchester City.
This week he faces a selection dilemma in deciding whether to stick with Sébastian Haller, who netted the winner at Sheffield United last time out, or throw Michail Antonio back into the mix.
The former will probably get the nod, especially as Antonio won’t be match-fit following an injury sustained in that draw with City a month ago, but the fact Moyes has that headache must be a welcome one.
He has helped get the best out of Antonio since his return and has seen the talented Englishman score 12 goals since the end of February. Moyes also bought well in January with Tomas Soucek and Jarrod Bowen both showing some fine form.
Of course, Villa have also been responsible for some significant Premier League highlights, not least an unforgettable night when they put seven past the defending champions.
Smith’s men have actually lost three of their last four in the Premier League, including a surprising loss at home to Brighton last weekend, but did earn a superb win against Arsenal on their last visit to the capital.
They will miss Ross Barkley, who has impressed on loan from Chelsea, but will otherwise also have a nearly full quota of players to select from.
Monday night football with Moyes and Smith at the helm – two unsung managers but two men who have moved proud English football institutions in an upwards direction.
The sides have been very well matched historically.
The Hammers have won 40 times since their very first meeting – an FA Cup clash in 1913 which Villa won 5-0 – while the Villains have triumphed on 38 occasions.
A further 34 matches have ended all square, including the most recent one on the final day of last season when Villa took an 84th minute lead through Jack Grealish only for Andriy Yarmolenko to equalise seconds later.
On a tense afternoon at the London Stadium, that point proved enough for Villa to preserve their top flight status. The earlier fixture last season had finished goalless.
The last time Villa won on Hammers’ turf was at Upton Park in 2011 when a last minute Gabby Agbonlahor goal sealed a 2-1 winner after Darren Bent had earlier cancelled out Robbie Keane’s opener for West Ham, who were relegated a month later.
|West Ham United vs Aston Villa||Over 2.75 @ 1.99|
|December 1, 04:00 (GMT+8)|
The SBOTOP Premier League betting odds provide a number of attractive bets to consider.
West Ham have the edge whichever way you look.
You can back David Moyes’ men 1X2 @ 2.40 or with Asian Handicap -0.50 at the same price.
Villa, meanwhile, are available 1X2 @ 2.88 and Asian Handicap 0.00 @ 2.20.
A re-run of their meeting on the final day of last season (which was only late July of course) – correct score 1-1 – is on offer @ 6.00.
|A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR () BETS ARE WORTH:|
|= €20 (Highly confident)||= €10 (CONFIDENT)||= €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)|
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.
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