Aston Villa v Blackburn - Saturday 15:00

Cautious pragmatism is the name of the game for Steve Bruce, the new Villa boss sacrificing a portion of his team’s attacking threat until the basics have been fully established. But outside expectations might get the better of his players against a Blackburn side unfairly cast as whipping boys. Back the visitors to score first at 12/5 and to win the first half at 11/2.

Owen Coyle’s men might not have enough about them to deliver a complete performance over the full 90 minutes but they play with enough freedom to unsettle the hosts in front of another 32,000-plus gate. The way they zip the ball about in the middle of the park might just create the illusion that Bruce’s early approach is taking Villa backwards.

Rovers haven’t conceded a first-half goal in their last six away games and it’s only happened twice in their last 12 matches anywhere, which is a solid platform on which to try and land a bet like this. However, late defeats at Birmingham and Bristol City illustrates their biggest weakness: an inability to vary their approach once opponents have sussed them out.

Indeed, 11 of the last 13 goals they’ve conceded have arrived after the hour mark, six of them in the final ten minutes, so you’d fancy Villa to take something from the game no matter what pattern unfolds over the opening three quarters. The 12/5 on Blackburn to score first is a decent cover bet.

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Blackburn to score the first goal - 1pt @ 12/5
Blackburn to win the first half - 1pt @ 11/2