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Preview: Pacey Crystal Palace wingers to give Villa problems

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Aston Villa head down to Selhurst Park in search of their fourth, fifth and sixth points of the year. But they’ll have to deal with Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha if they’re going to be successful.

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Aston Villa! Crystal Palace! Football!

Palace used to be claret and blue, but then decided to be original and to go for a red and blue colour scheme, which is pretty awesome. I like them for deciding to be something other than wanna-be Villa.

Both sides have had similar starts to the season from the record standpoint — a win away against a promoted side and a loss at home to a Champions League side — but their matches have been pretty different. The Eagles might be pretty bad at the back, but Villa aren’t very good at all in attack right now.

Fun stuff!

What to know about Villa

Jack Grealish might be fit again! Maybe! The young Republic of Ireland (?) midfielder played the full 90 and scored in Monday’s U-21 match, so if he’s not ready to start, I think it’s fair to think he could make a 30-minute cameo off the bench, which could still be a significant enough time to make the difference in Villa’s favour at Selhurst Park tomorrow.

In general, these are hard to write right now, because it’s tough to pinpoint who is going to show up and make the difference. Does Tim Sherwood have enough faith in Rudy Gestede’s fitness to start him up top? Will he go for Gabby Agbonlahor, Jordan Ayew, both or neither? Does Jordan Veretout get dropped for Carlos Sánchez, who’s had a couple of good substitute appearances?

The one place I wouldn’t expect to see changes would be the back line — Jordan Amavi, Ciaran Clark, Micah Richards and Leandro Bacuna have played pretty well altogether as a unit, and with the latter getting a new contract yesterday, it looks like Sherwood may be committing to the Dutchman as a defender.

Maybe it’s Ashley Westwood who is our key player? It’s tough to say right now.

What to know about Palace

While Villa’s probably the biggest wild card in the Premier League this year, Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace side may be the next biggest. There’s a lot of concern about their defence, and a big question of whether or not last year’s season-ending form was a fluke or reflective of their true talent level.

Their signing of Yohan Cabaye made big splashes this summer, and it’ll be interesting to track over the next couple months how well he settles into life in South London. He’s a fantastic player, and could help them control the game in midfield.

The real issue Villa face, however, is trying to contain the duo of Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha. They’re a pair of extremely quick wingers who have the tendency to cause fullbacks problems — don’t be surprised if Micah Richards is counted on a bit to help out Leandro Bacuna.

It will be interesting tactically to see what Tim Sherwood does to counter the Palace duo — does he try and go end-to-end with them, encouraging Amavi and Bacuna to get forward like they typically do, or does he try and hold them back to avoid getting burned on a quick counterattack?

Time will tell.

The odds

Bovada: Palace 4/5, Villa 7/2, Draw 13/5
Paddy Power: Palace 4/5, Villa 5/2, Draw 15/4
Sky Bet: Palace 17/20, Villa 10/3, Draw 12/5

The prediction

I think there’s a lot of value you can find betting on Villa this weekend, especially if you’re smart about where you put your money. Betting 10/3 at Sky Bet infers a 23% chance of winning, and I think it’s probably a little more likely Villa win than that.

At the end of the day though, it’s still early with this squad, and Bolasie and Zaha give me nightmares.

Palace 2, Villa 0.

P.S.: I really do like Palace. Their fans are cool, and their ground looks like a neat old place to see a game. Also, Rebecca Lowe is a Palace fan, and she’s great.