EPL Betting: Final day lay
He might be difficult to play against, but he only scores one goal every 5,000 games (actually it's one this season in 28 appearances).
Gareth Purnell explains why he's laying Aston Villa on Sunday when they meet Norwich at Carrow Road.
Villa have been my 'go to' team for lay bets all year, and although Norwich are hardly in the best of form and there's nothing much to play for here, the opportunity to back against the Midlanders winning at Carrow Road at the available 3.55 is too much to resist.
Villa have been statistically the second worst team in the Premier League over the last ten games - posting only one win and scoring only seven goals. Indeed, they have only been victorious in one of their last 16 Premier League games - a 1-0 home victory over Fulham. The only other league game they have won in 2012 was a 1-0 victory against Wolves.
The Villains have effectively drawn their way to Premier League survival and their tally of 17 stalemates is not only more than any other team in the top flight, it's also a Premier League record.
Indeed, they have set a number of records this season - none of them that they will want to remember. Their battling 1-1 draw against ten-man Spurs last week condemned Alex MCLeish's men to lowest ever tally of home wins in a season, and whatever happens on Sunday they will have their lowest ever Premier League points total.
It has indeed been a painful season for the Villa faithful.
The draw is a big runner again in this game, but my strategy of laying them this year has been so successful because the draw is of course winner for us. Villa's defence is actually pretty sound. A total of 26 goals conceded on their travels is actually better than anyone else in the bottom half of the table by some distance.
But the problem is an obvious one: they can't score. Villa's main goal threat Darren Bent has been injured since February, since when they have only found the back of the net eight times. Gabby Agbonlahor is hardly prolific even when fully fit, but he's also been carrying niggling injuries (the latest being bruised ribs) and he hasn't got the pace he used to have. So the spearhead of the attack of late has had to be Emile Heskey.
Ah, good old Emile. He might be difficult to play against, but he only scores one goal every 5,000 games (actually it's one this season in 28 appearances). Add to that injuries to Richard Dunne and James Collins, plus skipper Stiliyan Petrov finding out he has acute leukemia, and you can see that the spine of the first team has been torn out.
So Villa, who can't afford a deep squad, have had to rely on inexperienced youngsters to try and steer them to another Premier League season. The fact that they have done so, albeit with turgid, battling football, is a testament to them and they can only improve for the experience. Although money is very tight at Villa Park and the manager has been charged with reducing the wage bill and imposing a strict wage cap, I would expect this to have come as a harsh warning to Villa's owner Randy Lerner. We will see if McLeish can wheel and deal like Alan Pardew this summer. If he's still at the helm.
Although Villa could theoretically still go down if Bolton win by a 17-goal swing, the job is done and you would not be surprised to see the youngsters take their foot off the gas in this game. Plus all that battling has taken its toll and a couple of their more forward thinking players, in Andreas Weimann and Marcus Albrighton, are also out injured now.
Norwich hardly had the pedal to the metal in the run-in themselves - they have only won two of their last ten and have been shipping goals for fun. But they showed in the 3-3 draw at The Emirates last weekend that they are not on the beach just yet.
Only Stoke and Fulham have scored fewer away goals than Villa this season, and no-one in the bottom half has scored more home goals than Norwich. Villa were extremely lucky in my opinion to win the reverse fixture 3-2 in November and at the available 3.55, I rate them lay material.
Lay Aston Villa in the Match Odds @3.55