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Continuing to concede the first goal will harm Tottenham Hotspur’s top-four ambitions
Aston Villa will be looking to bounce back from their first defeat of Unai Emery’s tenure
This should be an entertaining game between two teams going for the victory
The odds for Tottenham Hotspur vs Aston Villa are taken from the SI sportsbook. Sign up an account today and you can get $200 after betting $20.
Tottenham tend to be slow starters, which makes a price of +100 look like excellent value.
Back the second half of this game to be higher scoring than the first. (+100)
After a six-week break for World Cup 2022, Tottenham picked up where they left off on Boxing Day. For the 10th time this season, Antonio Conte’s side conceded the first goal in their meeting with Brentford and trailed at half-time. In seven of their last eight matches in all competitions, Spurs have been behind at the interval.
They battled back against the Bees, coming from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 thanks to goals from Harry Kane and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. But this is surely not sustainable. Continually conceding the opening goal is a recipe for disaster. Tottenham are unlikely to finish in the top four if they keep giving their opponents a head start.
Spurs do occupy a place in the Champions League qualification spots for now. But their position is precarious. Manchester United are just one point behind and they have a game in hand on Conte’s team. Liverpool have also made up the ground of late.
Tottenham lost only one of their first 10 matches in the Premier League this term, but a 2-0 defeat by United in the middle of October set in motion a period of inconsistency. Spurs have won only two of their last six games, and in both of those victories (over Bournemouth and Leeds United), they were forced to come from behind.
Having been tipped as possible title contenders before a ball was kicked in 2022/23, the Spurs have plenty of work to do to finish in the top four. Indeed, the best online sportsbooks have them down as only the sixth-favorites as things stand, behind Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Newcastle United, and Manchester United.
Conte is one of the best managers in the world and he has won silverware wherever he has been. But the Italian has his work cut out in north London this season, as recent results suggest.
Aston Villa have ambitions of one day being part of the top-four conversation, but that is unlikely to happen any time soon. The former European champions (a feat that the likes of Tottenham, Arsenal, and Manchester City have never achieved) are one of the most historic clubs in English soccer, but the last few years have not been particularly kind to them.
More than a decade has now passed since Villa last finished in the top half of the Premier League. After several seasons of battling against relegation, they finally succumbed to the drop in 2016 and then spent three campaigns in the Championship before winning the playoffs.
Villa were widely expected to mount a challenge for the Europa League or Europa Conference League qualification spots this season, but a poor start under the guidance of Steven Gerrard led to the sacking of the former Rangers boss in October.
Unai Emery was installed as Gerrard’s replacement a couple of weeks after the latter’s dismissal. Having overseen back-to-back wins in his first two games in charge, Emery suffered a setback as Villa lost 3-1 to Liverpool on Boxing Day.
Still, the Spaniard is an excellent manager for a club of Villa’s size, and he may well lead them into the top half of the table before the season is out. Qualification for one of Europe’s two secondary competitions cannot be ruled out either, with Villa currently just six points adrift of Brighton & Hove Albion in seventh.
As mentioned above, Tottenham have been slow starters this season. Twenty-three of their 33 goals have come in the second half, in which they have a better record than any other team in the Premier League. But their record in the opening 45 minutes leaves a lot to be desired. If matches ended at the midway point, Tottenham would be down in eighth place right now.
Villa, for their part, have fared better in the first half than the second. But if they were to score the first goal of the game here, they would probably be content to sit on their lead until after the break. For all his qualities, Emery has a tendency towards caution which would no doubt manifest itself were Villa to go ahead on New Year’s Day.
Spurs have demonstrated an ability to grow stronger as games wear on, which is another reason why it could be worth backing the second half to feature more goals than the first. This is a match that will probably open up from the hour mark onwards, and odds of +100 are appealing given what we know about these two teams.
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Teams: Tottenham Hotspur vs Aston Villa
Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England
Date and Time: Sunday, 1 January 2023, 9.00 AM EST
How to Watch: Peacock Premium
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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