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Championship preview: Villa will gain significant ground if they win at Wolves

Reading have already lost, while Sheffield Wednesday host Huddersfield Town and Leeds United host Derby County. Points are guaranteed to be dropped ahead of Villa. Can the Claret and Blues take advantage?

Derby County v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship
DERBY, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15: Luke Ayling of Leeds United and Ikechi Anya of Derby County during the Sky Bet Championship match between Derby County and Leeds United at iPro Stadium on October 15, 2016 in Derby, England. Derby County and Leeds United play a crucial six-pointer tonight at Elland Road.
Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images

So, I’ve got good news and bad news for you this week, Villa fans. There are a pair of key six-pointers ahead of the Claret and Blues in the table, as Leeds United, who sit fifth, host seventh-placed Derby County on Friday, while fourth-placed Huddersfield Town travel to sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday in the traditional 3pm slot Saturday. The positive is that points must be dropped by two, if not three or four, of the key clubs Villa must chase down. The negative is that points must be gained by two, if nor three or four, of the key clubs Villa must chase down.

Add that to third-placed Reading’s loss last night to QPR, and it makes Saturday’s trip to Molineux all the more important.

I’ll be doing something a little different here, taking the betting odds offered by Sky Bet and converting them to implied expected points from the match. We’ll use a simple example to illustrate what we’re doing here, then walk forward.

Let’s say a match has 2/1 odds of each result — a win for the home side, a draw and a loss.* That would imply that each has a 33.3% chance of happening, meaning that we’d expect each side to earn 1.33 points from the match (33.3% of the time, they’ll get 3 points, while 33.3% of the time, they’ll get 1). While we know that a team will never earn anything other than 0, 1 or 3 points in a match, expected point values help us better evaluate the week’s slate in advance.

We’ll look at the aforementioned two key matches, then delve into what it means for Villa.

Leeds v Derby

Leeds’ league form has been fantastic of late — Derby’s hadn’t been too shabby either before a loss last time out — and that coupled with playing at Elland Road makes Leeds favourites here, though they’ve got the longest odds of any favourites this week at SkyBet.

No matter the result here, it will be beneficial for Villa. If Leeds win, Villa can close the gap to Derby to just two points with a win of their own; if Derby win, it pulls Leeds back closer to the rest of the chasing pack. A draw takes points out of the overall system, which at this point is the likely best-case scenario.

Expected points: Leeds 1.43, Derby 1.26

Wednesday v Huddersfield

Even without the odds SkyBet has put on this game, I wouldn’t be inclined to bet against David Wagner’s Huddersfield side right now, and given the 11/4 odds on the Terriers on Saturday, I’d be inclined to jump on it if I were a betting man. After a dip in form, Huddersfield have ran off five league wins from six; the Owls drew their last two times out in Championship action.

All that said, though, Hillsborough is a difficult place to play. Like the Derby/Leeds match, any result here benefits Villa — but the draw would be best.

Expected points: Wednesday 1.65, Huddersfield 1.05

Wolves v Villa

Now, all of this will be for naught if Villa can’t come away with three points this weekend — the best they could hope for is the status quo, with two draws above and a Villa draw. And SkyBet aren’t huge Villa fans here, making them 19/10 underdogs away from home. That’s probably fair, too, given the sputtering away form that’s currently plaguing the side.

Expected points: Wolves 1.46, Villa 1.26

Expected results

The bookies here don’t expect Villa to have a great weekend — in fact, Bruce’s boys are expected to lose ground on sixth and a spot in the table (to Birmingham, no less) this week. Wednesday will be expected to remain in sixth, on 43.65 points, while Villa are expected to drop into 13th, with 36.26. That would be suboptimal, to say the least.

But what if Villa win? Well, I’ve got good news on that front. With three points, Villa would move to 38 points, and if all goes well, the gap to sixth could be back down to four or five points by the end of Saturday. There’s a 17% chance a Villa win would move them within four points of sixth (a Wednesday loss + a Derby loss/draw), while we’d expect them to move to five points back 38% of the time with a win (a Wednesday draw and/or a Derby win).

And even if Villa don’t gain on sixth (a Wednesday win), they’d still be gaining on someone else (Huddersfield, as well as Reading) with a win. With the winter transfer window underway, this is a crucial weekend for Bruce’s side, a huge chance to move up the table. We’ll see what they do with it.

*Note: Bookies would rarely actually have these odds at 2/1, instead going for something like 19/10 across the board. That way, the implied probability of all three outcomes would sum to more than 100%, ensuring a profit for the bookies in the long run.