Weblog: The football punter

Villa retain the quality to poke holes in Hull

Sky Bet Championship
Sky Sports Football & Main Event, 7.45pm

Aston Villa faced financial oblivion at the end of last season, but having survived a turbulent summer they look set to start the new campaign on a positive note at Hull.

Villa are unquestionably weaker than they were when they lost the Sky Bet Championship playoff final against Fulham in May and they are fortunate to some extent to have quickly found new investment following Dr Tony Xia's risky attempt to quickly gain promotion which almost bankrupted the club.

There's no John Terry around these days and loanees Sam Johnstone, Robert Snodgrass, Josh Onomah, Axel Tuanzebe and Lewis Grabban have departed too. Villa were unable to make significant signings to replace them due to cash flow and financial fair play issues.

Manager Steve Bruce remains, although only just as the club flirted with the possibility of giving Thierry Henry a chance to cut his teeth in management, and playmaker Jack Grealish is also still there despite concrete interest from Tottenham.

Grealish may be a goner by Thursday when the Premier League transfer window closes, but he could be the difference in this contest for a Villa side who still possess strong performers at this level.

Grealish is the pick of them, but Albert Adomah scored 14 goals last season and striker Jonathan Kodjia is back to fitness.

Kodjia notched only once in 15 appearances last season as he struggled with injury but the season before he scored 19 Championship goals and he got 18 for Bristol City in 2015-16.

The Ivorian also bagged 15 in 28 for Angers in 2014-15 to earn a move to England and is a proven Championship hitman, while youngster Andre Green has caught the eye for Villa in pre-season.  

Former Hull men James Chester and Ahmed El-Mohamady are still at the club along with Alan Hutton, Neil Taylor, Mile Jedinak, Birkir Bjarnason, Conor Hourihane and Henri Lansbury.

There isn't quite the same quality as there was last season but the wage bill remains competitive and the Tigers would certainly love to have Villa's 'problems'.

Hull's major assets were sold off a long time ago as they successfully fought off relegation last term, finishing 18th, 34 points behind fourth-placed Villa.

A raft of loanees departed, following Michael Dawson (Nottingham Forest), Allan McGregor (Rangers), Abel Hernandez (CSKA Moscow), David Meyler (Reading) and Max Clark (Vitesse) out of the door.

Boss Nigel Adkins was further hampered by Jackson Irvine and Kamil Grosicki's World Cup participation and both have been short of playing time in the pre-season friendlies.

Jarrod Bowen has surprisingly remained and he will be key after impressing with 14 league goals last season but Villa look the more likely side to take maximum points.

Aston Villa draw no bet

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Match in Focus


Sampdoria v Sassuolo

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Sassuolo are unbeaten in their last three against Sampdoria
Expert verdict
Sampdoria have the best defensive record this season in Italy, conceding just four goals in all competitions but they may struggle to beat a decent Sassuolo side. Samp's top scorer Gregoire Defrel will no doubt be eager to notch against his former club, although Sassuolo's only defeats this season have come at Juventus and Napoli and at home to Milan.