In one of the summer’s more contentious managerial moves, Paul Lambert chose to end three stunning seasons in East Anglia to head for the (metaphorically) greener pastures of Villa Park.
Norwich City fans were less than pleased by the defection of their boss to a side they finished four places and nine points ahead of the previous season and even less so by his description of Aston Villa as a “bigger team”.
While he may have had a historical point (Lambert’s new team have played in the joint-highest amount of top-flight seasons) their respective starts to the season suggest Villa and Norwich won’t finish too far apart, or too far away from the relegation places (Villa are 12/5 to go down and Norwich are 3/4).
Home advantage means Villa start as favourites in bwin’s 3Way football betting market at 9/10, with Norwich 3/1 and the draw looking attractively priced at 12/5.
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As neither side’s form particularly inspires confidence, winning just 12.5% of games between them, and with Villa being the division’s draw specialists last season (17 in 38), it would be no surprise to see the spoils shared in Saturday’s lunch-time kick-off.
However, if there’s one fixture Lambert will have earmarked in the calendar it is this, so he’ll do his best to bury the hatchet and have star striker Darren Bent primed to finally show his best form this term.
Having started his career at Ipswich, Bent will have his own thoughts of revenge and it’s 9/2 for him to announce his return to form with the opening goal.
But key to Villa’s struggles this term has been their lack of goals and against newly-stubborn Norwich, who picked up a superb clean sheet against Arsenal, it’s worth betting on them to notch less than two goals at 91/100.
Indeed, that 1-0 win over the Gunners would have done wonders for Chris Hughton’s confidence and he’ll definitely want to show Norwich fans he’s a more than able replacement by getting a result against his predecessor.
Another 1-0 victory is 12/1 but Norwich have been rather less resilient away from Carrow Road, so a draw would represent a decent result all-round and it’s 16/5 for lead-draw in the run of play market.
Those looking for added value could take a punt on Norwich rescuing a 1-1 draw after a Bent opener, an outcome that would earn new customers a whopping £520 from their initial £20 stake.
But the smarter money could well be on Lambert being forced to settle for a draw which would certainly suit his former employers more than his current paymasters.