Aston Villa are 7/2 for a Top 6 finish and 10/1 not to lose another game this season as the in-form Lions travel to Manchester United this weekend.
Old Trafford hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds for Villa over the years, winning just twice at the Theatre of Dreams in 37 attempts dating back to the mid-1980s.
But Villa did pick up three points at Old Trafford last season, and they have every reason to think they can repeat the feat on Sunday.
bet365’s Steve Freeth said: “The thought of a trip to Old Trafford would normally send a shiver down the spine of any Villa fan, but such is their current form they’d probably walk barefoot up the M6 to watch their team right now.
“It’s hard to believe that Villa were 7/2 for relegation before Unai Emery’s first game, ironically against the Red Devils, a side they hadn’t beaten at home since 1995, but not only did they dispatch them with ease, they now travel to Old Trafford on a 10-game unbeaten run.
“It’s been a while since Villa fans had a European tour to look forward to, but if they complete their first double over Manchester United in 69 years this weekend and keep up this unbeaten run in what is a tough end to the campaign, then they better start dusting off their passports.”
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The remarkable 10-game run that has catapulted them up the table and into the European places has seen them take more points than anyone else in the league in the same period, though they have played three more games than Manchester City, who have won seven of their last seven in that time.
But they’ve still picked up more points per game than Arsenal, Liverpool, Newcastle, Manchester United, and, indeed, the rest of the Premier League.
Emery’s men have been tremendous over the last two months, keeping seven clean sheets in 10 games, conceding just three, and scoring 18.
Ollie Watkins has also thrived with his more prominent role in the squad, no longer competing with Danny Ings. Since 21st January, the day after Ings departed for West Ham, no striker in the league has scored more than Watkins’ 11 goals.
It’s been a nice redemption story for Emery, who, despite getting gigs at PSG and Arsenal on merit, has perhaps never quite been taken seriously as a top manager on these shores.
Those in Emery’s native Spain were never in doubt over his managerial credentials, winning the Europa League in four of his last five full campaigns across his times at Sevilla and Villarreal – the fifth season seeing his side eliminated in the semi-finals of the Champions League by Liverpool.
But his Arsenal spell was underwhelming, and he may have felt like he had unfinished business in the Premier League; Villa fans are all too happy he’s finishing it with them.
However, as you might expect of a club contemplating a relegation battle early in the season, their unbeaten run featuring eight wins in their last 10 has seen them experience their share of good fortune.
Since Emery took over, Villa’s goal difference is +14, yet their xGD is -1.8, a figure more akin to a mid-table side than one battling for the European spots.
That said, over-performance is often sustained over individual seasons – as Arsenal have experienced throughout their title push – and with only five games left to play, there’s little to say that a side riding the crest of the wave can’t see it out just a few more weeks.
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