Aston Villa and Hibernian meet once again in the second leg of their Europa Conference League play-off tie at Villa Park on Thursday evening (20.00).
The Villans thrashed Hibs 5-0 in the first leg at Easter Road to put one foot in the group stages, while things have gone from bad to worse for the Scottish side, losing against Livingstone on Saturday which resulted in Lee Johnson being shown the door by the Hibernian hierarchy.
Given the lead Villa have, I’m expecting Unai Emery to rotate his squad on Thursday – particular given the upcoming visit to Anfield in the Premier League on Sunday.
That could see the likes of Ollie Watkins and Moussa Diaby rested, while Emiliano Martinez may not be risked after missing Sunday’s Premier League win against Burnley with a calf problem.
Recent loan signing Nicolo Zaniolo played in a Champions League qualifier for Galatasaray last month so is ineligible for the Conference League’s playoff round.
As for Hibs, Dylan Levitt, Harry McKirdy and Jojo Wollacott are all unavailable due to injury and goalkeeper David Marshall is also a doubt.
Aston Villa to win and under 2.5 goals @ 11/4
The gulf in quality between these two sides was there for all to see in Villa’s 5-0 thrashing of Hibs last week.
An Ollie Watkins hat-trick, coupled with goals from Leon Bailey and Douglas Luiz, means Villa have one foot in the group stage of the Europa Conference League, but I’m not expecting another thrashing in the return fixture at Villa Park.
Villa have a tough trip to Anfield on the horizon, with Unai Emery likely to make changes and rest several of his key players.
Former Hibs captain David Gray steps into the dugout after the dismissal of Johnson, and he will likely set his side up to defend deep and avoid another embarrassing scoreline – and with Aston Villa not needing to chase a goal it could end up a bit of a non-event.
Aston Villa to win to nil @ 7/10
As mentioned above, Villa were ruthless in their first-leg victory and I think Hibs could struggle to get on the scoresheet once more here.
They will merely be playing for pride when they visit the Midlands, and caretaker boss David Gray will want to see a much-improved performance.
Hibernian could only direct two shots on target at Easter Road last Wednesday and could again struggle up top, so back Villa to shut them out.