The International break over the last week or so has brought to light just how close the World Cup is getting but there’s still the matter of domestic matters needing to be finalised before the pinnacle event in football kicks off. Manchester City would need just 8 points from their final 8 matches to secure the title on current goal difference and assuming of course Manchester United win all of their remaining 8 matches. The fight for the top 4 will be red hot though and although Tottenham currently hold a 5 point lead over Chelsea, that lead could be cut to 2 points if Tottenham lose when they meet this weekend. It’s a match that headlines this weekend’s matches in what is a welcome return to the sporting calendar this weekend.
**Odds from Sportsbet.com.au as of 29th March
Crystal Palace vs Liverpool
Palace need to secure some points and quick to ensure their survival as they currently just sit 2 points above the relegation zone. Their injury list is still sizable but a number of key players have started to return in recent weeks, but it will take some time for them to build up some form in the final stretch of the season. On recent form, Palace have struggled for impact winning just once in their last 6 which is in contrast to Liverpool’s unbeaten run with 5 wins and a draw from their last 6. Palace’s biggest challenge will be trying to quell the influence of Liverpool’s front 3 of Firmino, Salah and Mane which even if they do well to keep the score low, keeping one of these 3 scoreless looks an impossible task.
Predicted Result: Liverpool 3-0
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $1.55
Best Value Bet: Liverpool -1 handicap at $2.2
Brighton vs Leicester
Prior to the International break, Brighton were one of the form sides of the league with just 1 loss in their last 6 matches whilst Leicester in contrast had won just once in their last 6. The last time these two met it ended in a 2-0 home win for Leicester in a match that threatened to be much more with Leicester scoring in the first minute of play. That was back in August though and Brighton have grown into this league and look a difficult team to play, particularly at home. They’ve lost only 3 times at home this season to Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea. That’s an impressive record and puts them in good stead against Leicester who although have an ok away record, have only won once on the road in their last 6. Brighton look in a great position to capture at least a point this weekend and perhaps more.
Predicted Result: Brighton 2-1
Best Bet: BTTS – Yes at $1.91
Best Value Bet: Brighton to win at $2.8
West Ham vs Southampton
The Hammers are in real danger at the moment with tensions from the home fans boiling over in their last match when they lost 3-0 at home to Burnley. That’s now 3 straight losses for 11 goals conceded and just 2 goals scored. They now also sit just 2 points above safety with 8 matches to play and one of those sides they sit 2 points above are Southampton. That makes this an incredibly important match mentally for both and with Southampton coming fresh off the international break having let go of Pellegrino and brought in Mark Hughes, this could be another difficult day for the Hammers. The injury list at West Ham is building too with the likes of Obiang, Carroll, Reid and Byram all on the treatment table. It’s less of an issue for Southampton and they’ll be right up for this. Whether that translates into an away win is a little murky still, but this will be a hard fought contest.
Predicted Result: Draw 2-2
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $2.19
Best Value Bet: Draw at $3
Manchester United vs Swansea
Manchester United look really well placed to maintain their 2nd place on the table when they host Swansea here. The Welsh side have had an incredible run of form in this 2nd half of the season however given how close the fight for survival is, they still are just 3 points above the relegation zone so they have plenty of work to do. On form they have lost just once in their last 8 league matches but some key injuries and such a tough away match here means that run of form may be broken up with a loss here. Jordan Ayew needs to serve the 2nd of a 3 game ban whilst Bony, Fer and Sanches all remain injured. Manchester United of course have issues of their own but they have the luxury of some world class talent that should see them through to a win here.
Predicted Result: Manchester United 3-0
Best Bet: Manchester United to win to Nil at $1.62
Best Value Bet: Manchester United -2 handicap at $2.88
Newcastle vs Huddersfield
Newcastle look well placed for a win here with Huddersfield stuttering in form prior to the International break without a win in their last 3 matches. Newcastle have started to build up some strong home form to close out the season too being undefeated in their last 5 starts with just 2 goals conceded. With Benitez typically a tough manager to score against, Huddersfield might find that area tough to come by in this one. In their 15 away matches this season they have scored just 10 times. Newcastle will make it difficult here and although they aren’t the most prolific of sides, they only need 1 goal.
Predicted Result: Newcastle 1-0
Best Bet: Newcastle to win at $1.72
Best Value Bet: Newcastle to win to Nil at $2.63
Watford vs Bournemouth
These two remain separated just by goal difference but the short term prize is a top 10 place which Bournemouth currently hold. Watford will have welcomed the International break having come off a 3-0 loss to Arsenal and a 5-0 loss to Liverpool. With some time to reset ahead of this match, they should be well placed to bounce back. Bournemouth haven’t been half bad away from home though and they were finding some good form prior to the break so there’s no reason why they can’t recapture some of that form. Away from home they’ve only lost once in their last 5 matches which Watford will be wary of. Expect a pretty even contest here and one where with Watford pushing, opportunities will open up the other way for Bournemouth who have pace on the counter to cause problems.
Predicted Result: Draw 2-2
Best Bet: BTTS – Yes at $1.62
Best Value Bet: Draw & BTTS at $4.2
West Brom vs Burnley
The Baggies look really lost at the moment to the point where even if they start winning, they will need to rely heavily on the results of those above them to survive. They sit 10 points off safety right now with just 21 points available to them for the remainder of the season. It’ll be interesting to see how much fight they show in this final run of the season but it may just be too little too late. Burnley right now are the best side outside of the top 6 sitting just 5 points off Arsenal. Another tough day beckons for a Baggies side destined for relegation.
Predicted Result: Burnley 2-1
Best Bet: Burnley to win either half at $2.05
Best Value Bet: Burnley to win at $3
Everton vs Manchester City
Everton may have a decent enough home record this season with just 4 losses, but quelling the influence of a Manchester City side that will be looking to maintain their league form in a bid to keep them focused come Champions League time will be very difficult. Pep doesn’t want his side to take the foot off the pedal in the league even with their 16 point lead at the top of the table. Expect another blistering performance from the away side here. Everton’s defence is questionable and particularly against a City side that are scoring for fun. City have scored 34 times on the road this season and conceded just 10. Everton average over a goal conceded a game at home and keeping a clean sheet would be a stunning result here, albeit extremely unlikely.
Predicted Result: Manchester City 3-1
Best Bet: Manchester City to win & Over 2.5 goals at $1.83
Best Value Bet: Manchester City to score 3 or more goals at $2.3
Arsenal vs Stoke
For all of Arsenal’s struggles this season, for the first time in a while they look more likely to win this match than to completely struggle. On home form they have only lost once in their last 6 and only lost twice at home all season. Stoke of course will be giving it their all, they really have nothing to lose. After 31 matches, the Potters site 3 points off safety so sitting back and trying to scrape a point would be dangerous as Arsenal have a quality attack that just hasn’t quite gelled yet but one that is more than capable of knocking in a few goals. Arsenal might show a few nervy moments and patches of poor play but expect a largely straightforward score line at the fulltime whistle.
Predicted Result: Arsenal 3-0
Best Bet: Arsenal -1 Handicap at $1.83
Best Value Bet: Arsenal to win both halves at $2.88
Chelsea vs Tottenham
An away win here for Tottenham would almost guarantee them top 4 as it would push them 8 points clear over Chelsea who currently sit in 5th. The small factor of Harry Kane’s fitness will hurt Tottenham’s chances but prior to his injury he wasn’t looking in his usual form having not scored since 25th Feb. It does however mean Tottenham will play with a trickier front four with Son leading the line. The South Korean is in incredible form right at the moment having scored 7 goals in his last 5 appearances for the club. He’ll be a handful for Chelsea’s defence who although have only conceded 11 times at home this season, have looked sometimes a little fragile defensively. In the end though, this is a big mental test for Tottenham as they still have not beaten Chelsea at Stamford Bridge since 1990. That’s an incredible drought for Tottenham and one they’d love to break but they may need to wait a little longer as Chelsea won’t be easily beaten at home and particularly in big matches such as these were they tend to step up particularly with a top 4 spot a step closer with a win.
Predicted Result: Draw 2-2
Best Bet: BTTS – Yes at $1.72
Best Value Bet: Draw at $3.25