With the transfer window now behind us, we are into the mid-period of the season and roaring towards what looks to be a fascinating conclusion. Leicester City are 5 points clear of Spurs, and this weekend we see the top 4 play-off against each other. Man City host Spurs, while Leicester visit the Emirates. If both away sides win, a huge gap will open up between 1st and 3rd and we could well see a new winner of the Premier League.
Elsewhere there are some interesting battles – Chelsea face bogey-team Newcastle, Sunderland face Man Utd while Southampton travel to Wales to play Swansea – those three are key in the relegation battle, while Norwich who have stuttered of late play West Ham. Here is my view of each game, and my favourite bet for each – with the highlighted odds at the top of each game the match odds.
12.45: Sunderland (15/4), Draw (5/2), Man Utd (3/4)
In the early kickoff, Sunderland host Man Utd. The Red Devils have found some form of late, with Rooney and Martial looking very dangerous, while Jesse Lingard has resurrected a career that looked likely to end in a sale to a lower-Premier League side, or a Championship contender. Man Utd are easy favourites @ 3/4, which against a Sunderland team who should have taken something from Man City could look a little short in terms of value. Man Utd have defensive issues with plenty of injuries leading to a few youngsters taking 1st team spots – though Borthwick-Jackson has impressed.
Sunderland are either awful or brilliant. Defoe is deadly given few chances, so the Man Utd back-four will have to be sharp. Because of the lack of quality in the Mackem’s back four I can only see a win for Man Utd, with my favourite tip being Man Utd -1 Goal Asian Handicap @ 7/5
15.00: Bournemouth (21/20), Draw (12/5), Stoke (5/2)
This looks set to be an interesting game. Stoke have failed to score of late, but really should have done so against Arsenal. Against a team if similar stature in the league might be a good thing after some tough games against the likes of Arsenal, Leicester and Man Utd. With Bojan signing a new deal, and Xherdan Shaqiri looking sharp – they should well score against a leaky Bournemouth side.
The South-coast team have been looking good of late – really gave Arsenal a run for their money last weekend and with Benik Afobe looking worth every penny of the £9m paid, I feel they too will score. With an attacking philosophy installed by Eddie Howe, for me they are one of the most dangerous sides in the league and with quality firepower added – which they have missed since Callum Wilson’s season-ending injury – they should do well at home to a shakey looking Stoke team. Both have the quality to win this, and I can’t pick either – so for me BTTS @ 21/20 looks the value bet.
15.00: Crystal Palace (5/4), Draw (23/10), Watford (11/5)
This too looks a tasty one for Saturday afternoon. Palace and Pardew have done the normal thing, which usually happens after around a season of good results – they drop off a cliff for a while. I’m not sure what it is, weather AP gets complacent – but its happened everywhere he’s gone. He had some awful runs at Newcastle, followed by 5-6 game winning streaks which saved his bacon but then carried on the losing spells afterwards.
Anyway – to the game at hand. Both teams have their merits, but with Palace bringing in Adebayor their good football has dried up and they have struggled to find the net regularly. Yohan Cabaye has been a bit off-the-boil recently, but on his day is a match-winner. Wickham could return, while Scott Dann is still finding the net regularly and putting in sterling performances. Watford are another to go off the boil, but they might have been found out a little. Ighalo has been targeted and marked more heavily, while Troy Deeney has been rested of late, but expect them to team up again today. I think it will be a low scoring affair – and with Watford finding the net once in their last four, and Palace winning just 3 in their last 10 – it’s hard to pick a winner. Both will be looking to make a point, and both have the firepower and creativity necessary to trouble each other – I fancy BTTS @ 1/1 again.
15.00: Everton (4/7), Draw (14/5). WBA (5/1)
This could be the sure-thing of the 3pm kick-offs. West Brom look positively awful and just about fluked their way through their FA Cup tie in the week. 120 minutes will have tired players though and against a fresh Everton team with new-boy Oumar Niasse waiting in the wings, as well as in-form Barkley, Lennon, Lukaku and Coleman to mention just a few, they could run riot. Stones has had a rest, and they look back to their near-best – which should be more than enough against a tired WBA side who are missing Saido Berahino, due to the fact they’ve barely played the lad all season, because they are not willing to let him go which for me could see them relegated. £24m was offered in January and that could have gone towards a player who would play week in, week out.
Anyway – back to the game, an easy Everton win for me, Everton -1 Goal Handicap @ 5/4
15.00: Norwich (13/10), Draw (12/5), West Ham (21/10)
Norwich, much like WBA – have struggled of late. They have slowly dropped into the relegation zone after weeks of poor performances, the worst being a 5-4 loss to Liverpool – fair play for scoring 4 goals but they simply can’t keep a clean sheet. 13/10 is a very small price for them to win as West Ham are looking very good! The Hammers have improved since Payet returned to the fray, and the influential Frenchman is a good shout to score today @ 11/4. He takes the set pieces and has struck the bar several times in previous games. With Enner Valencia looking decent, the back four sturdy as ever and a reliable midfield general in Mark Noble, I think 21/10 is huge for them – so my top bet for the game is West Ham Draw No Bet @ 11/10
15.00: Swansea (2/1), Draw (11/5), Southampton (7/5)
This one has the potential to be a 0-0 bore draw. Swansea have started to pick up points – 8 in their last 5 home games, while then going and losing 4-2 to Sunderland. Southampton equally are in great form recently, with 4 wins in their last 5 – but away from home have been pretty shocking. The one constant for them has been a tidy back four – 5 clean sheets in a row which has coincided with the return of Fraser Forster who has been very good between the sticks.
Southampton have won 4 of the last 5 meets, and despite their away form I think they will sneak this one. Southampton Win @ 7/5 my top bet for this game.
17.30: Chelsea (2/5), Draw (10/3) Newcastle (15/2)
The last game of Saturday see’s Chelsea host perennial bogey-team Newcastle. They have beaten them several times in the last few meets, and were 2-0 up before blowing it to draw 2-2 back in late-September. The likes of Moussa Sissoko come to life when Chelsea are infront of him, which as a fan I see as a problem for the Geordie side – some of their players see these games as a chance to put themselves in the shop window!
With Chelsea on a large unbeaten run since Guus Hiddink has come in, they should be confident of beating a Newcastle side who are awful away from home, but with the Toon improving and the likes of Mitrovic, Shelvey and Townsend looking more dangerous as the signings continue to gel – I can see both scoring and it going well over 2.5 goals – so my top bet is just that – BTTS + Over 2.5 Goals @ 5/4
12.00: Arsenal (7/10), Draw (14/5), Leicester (18/5)
Well – this is probably the best ‘Super Sunday’ of the season. Arsenal open proceedings with a home tie against Leicester in what should be a good game to say the least. Like Against Man City the other week, Leicester have no pressure on them which I think will go in their favour, as Arsenal usually choke at this stage of the season. For me you can look into the stats as much as you like, but this is the Premier League and nothing goes by form Both sides have a pretty much full strength squad to pick from, and with the confidence from Mahrez and Vardy. not to mention the likes of Huth after his heroics – despite being near-4/1 outsiders, I think they will take something. Leicester or Draw @ 6/5
14.05: Aston Villa (18/5), Draw (13/5), Liverpool (4/5)
This probably should have gone first…because it’s likely to be the dull game of the day. Villa are improving slightly, while Liverpool have one gear – so they are either good, or complete rubbish. Villa have too weak-a defence to cope with Liverpool’s attacking threat, but on the other hand Liverpool have the most shakey back four in the league quite frankly. Even with that in mind, I think the Reds will win. Top bet for the game is Liverpool to score 2+ @ 1/1
16.15: Man City (11/10), Draw (11/4), Spurs (13/5)
This is there with Arsenal-Leicester as the game of the weekend. For me it could go either way, with Spurs battering City last time they met, but then City battered them the season before. Tottenham are missing Jan Vertonghen, who will be a huge miss, while City look very poor at the moment – losing badly to Leicester and then being walked over by Sunderland, but still fluked a 1-0 win. Their back four looks very questionable/suspect, while the whole Spurs team looks very solid. Kane has had a few quiet games, but is still influential.
This really is another tough one to call, as Aguero on his day could tear any team apart, while equally an on-song Kane/Alli/Eriksen, and Spurs could waltz this one. I think there will be goals, and BTTS + Over 2.5 Goals @ 1/1 looks the value bet for me.
From those 10, my top four for an acca are:
- Bournemouth-Stoke BTTS @ 1/1
- Man City-Spurs BTTS + Over 2.5 Goals @ 1/1
- West Ham Draw No Bet @ 11/10
- Everton -1 Goal Handicap @ 5/4
I think the key in BTTS-type matches is having two teams equally matched, which those two are. Norwich and WBA are both very poor of late, while the two teams I am backing in differing markets are either looking strong, or have the potential to beat their opposition well. Payet and Valencia key for WHU, while Barkley and Lukaku have been doing the business for Everton, and I don’t think the teams in question can handle them.
Best of luck