Another big week of Premier League action ahead and with the top 10 separated by just 9 points, the title race is well and truly still wide open. The expected tailing off from Leicester hasn’t happened despite a draw last week as they sit equal top on points with Manchester City. Chelsea cannot be ruled out from a top 4 push despite sitting 12 points behind Arsenal in 4th. There’s still plenty of football to be had and they are slowly turning the corner in finding some form so a good run of fixtures over Christmas could see them back into the top 10 and pushing towards the top 4. Somewhat similarly, Liverpool have been building under Klopp and sit in 6th just 6 points off the top. They have some favourably fixtures in their next 6 with meetings against Newcastle, West Brom, Watford, and Sunderland all potential 3 pointers if they continue their good form. For now though, it’s best to get stuck into what lies ahead this weekend.
**Odds from Sportsbet as at 12th December
Stoke ($5) versus Manchester City ($1.73), Draw ($3.7)
The injuries are starting to build for Manchester City as they prepare for a tough trip away to Stoke. They’ll be without the likes of Aguero, Toure, Hart, Nasri and Zabaleta whilst t Kompany & Nasri are injury doubts also. It’s amazing though that they’ll still be able to field a very strong side with Silva, De Bruyne and Sterling spearheading their attack and the line-up won’t be too far off the one that beat Southampton 3-1 last weekend. They’ll need to be at their best too if they are to break down this Stoke defence that has conceded just the 2 goals in their last 4 top flight games. De Bruyne will be the danger man for Stoke though with 3 goals in his last 2 games in all competitions. With David Silva back this week as well he could become a bigger danger with the focus to try and stop both quite the headache. This is a tricky game for Man City but they have the class up front to get the 3 points though take some caution into this with Stoke pretty resilient at times.
Predicted score: Manchester City 1-0
Best Bet: Manchester City to win at $1.73 (70%)
Next Best: Under 2.5 goals at $1.91
Arsenal ($1.3) versus Sunderland ($10), Draw ($5.5)
The Gunners have been a bit off with their results lately having won just the once in their last 5 games in all competitions. They’ve taken just the 2 points in their last 3 premier league games against Tottenham, West Brom and Norwich to drop down to 4th on the table. In contrast, their opponents Sunderland have enjoyed a small resurgence by winning their last 2 games to push themselves out of the relegation zone. They were wins against decent opposition too in Crystal Palace and Stoke but despite Arsenal’s poor form lately I’m unconvinced that we’ll see Sunderland make it 3 in a row. Arsenal will need to do it without Alexis Sanchez though after his hamstring injury which is a bit of a blow alongside the extended loss of Santi Cazorla. The recent return of Aaron Ramsey should help to ease those losses as he begins to find some form but it certainly gives Sunderland some help. I think Sunderland will play with a little more freedom here as a result of their last 2 wins which may frustrate Arsenal but in the end Arsenal should be winning this.
Predicted score: Arsenal 2-0
Best Bet: Exactly 2 or 3 goals at $2
Next Best: Half-time Draw at $2.5
Manchester United ($1.44) versus West Ham ($8), Draw ($4.33)
A month or so ago you would have thought this would be another West Ham upset against a big club but given their dip in form and loss of key players such as Payet, it’s difficult to see them repeating some of their early season feats. They’ve also now lost Diafra Sakho to injury as well who’s been pretty handy this season. On form, Man United are undefeated in their last 6 whilst only conceding 2 goals in that time. It’d be easy to say that have some goal scoring issues by stretching out their goal record over the last 5 games where they have scored just 5 times but a better measure is that they have scored 5 goals in their last 3 games after two scoreless draws with Manchester City and Crystal Palace. Overall they haven’t scored a lot of goals but they aren’t losing a lot of games either and their home record is one of the best in the league. From 6 home games they’ve conceded just the once and haven’t lost a game. I think there’s still a bit of a danger factor about West Ham because they set up well against some of the big clubs but I don’t see Man United losing here. At worst they might have to settle for a draw but realistically this should be a Man United win.
Predicted score: Manchester United 2-1
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $1.95 (80%)
Next Best: Both teams to score – Yes at $2.1
Southampton ($1.53) versus Aston Villa ($7), Draw ($3.9)
Southampton have been smashed lately with their last two games in the league and Capitol One Cup combining for a 9-2 loss. They lost 3-1 to Man City in the league before letting 6 through against Liverpool in their cup tie after taking an early lead in the first minute. This is a great time to bounce back as they face an Aston Villa side that still cannot win a game. Last time out Villa recorded their eleventh loss of the season and an away trip to Southampton doesn’t look that easy despite Southampton’s recent results. I’m sure Villa will show some fight but a win looks unlikely as Southampton should bounce back from a pretty tough run of fixtures. They added a couple of goals last time out but still don’t look like much of a threat up top and I don’t see Villa adding to their 12 goals in 14 games this week as Southampton will be looking to solidify their defence after those heavy losses.
Predicted score: Southampton 2-0
Best Bet: Southampton to win at $1.53 (95%)
Next Best: Southampton -1 Handicap at $2.4
Swansea ($2.7) versus Leicester ($2.7), Draw ($3.25)
The longer the season goes on the more I feel like Leicester will stay at the top for weeks to come. A draw last week at Man United robbed them of remaining outright on top of the table but they have a handy fixture here to get another 3 points with Swansea struggling. Swansea have now slipped to 15th after their 3rd loss in 4 games and may find it difficult to stop a rampant Leicester City. Much has been made of Vardy’s incredible scoring run for Leicester this season but even if he finally doesn’t find the back of the net this week it’s easy to forget that they still have the likes of Mahrez flying under the radar who’s scored 7 times this season but also provided 6 assists. Both sides have little to worry about in terms of injuries but if anything that’s more of a positive for Leicester than it is for Swansea as it means continuity for Leicester. Leicester still aren’t the best defensively given their have the 7th worst defensive record which may give Swansea some chances but offensively is where Leicester will claim another 3 points here.
Predicted score: Leicester 2-1
Best Bet: Leicester to win at $2.7 (80%)
Next Best: Over 2.5 goals at $1.82
Watford ($2.1) versus Norwich ($3.6), Draw ($3.4)
This looks to be a pretty tricky game for both sides. Norwich have found some form lately taking 4 points from their last 3 games which may not sound like much until you consider their opposition. Their last 2 games have been against Arsenal and Chelsea where they took a point at Arsenal and narrowly lost to Chelsea away 1-0. Before their last 3 games this was a side that had conceded 23 times in 11 games and to concede just the 2 in their last 3 certainly suggests a bit more of a defensive focus. Watford won’t be easy away from home though given defensively they have been pretty good this season for a promoted side. Their last 5 games they have won 3 and lost 2 with the losses against top 4 opposition in Leicester and Man United. There’s plenty for Norwich to take into this one given their recent improvements but for me this is Watford’s to lose. They don’t have the best home record but then again they have had a pretty tough run of home fixtures this season as well.
Predicted score: Watford 1-0
Best Bet: Under 2.5 goals at $1.74 (75%)
Next Best: Watford to win at $2.1
West Brom ($4.5) versus Tottenham ($1.85), Draw ($3.5)
Recent meetings between these two have seen some pretty close contests with 3 of the last 5 ending in draws and 5 of the last 6 registering under 2.5 goals. I think this will be another tricky game for Tottenham to navigate but they are in good form and are well and truly in the top 4 race this season after a 13 games unbeaten run. Against Chelsea last time out they probably should have won but they looked a bit flat after a busy run of fixtures. With a small break during the week and no mid-week fixtures I think they’ll be feeling a little more refreshed whilst the return of Dele Alli from suspension should add plenty of energy to their midfield which was missing against Chelsea. West Brom will look to frustrate defensively as is the Pulis way, but I think Tottenham will sneak this one in their push for a top 4 spot.
Predicted score: Tottenham 1-0
Best Bet: Tottenham to win at $1.85 (70%)
Next Best: Under 2.5 goals at $1.68
Chelsea ($1.36) versus Bournemouth ($8.5), Draw ($5)
They still sit in the bottom half of the table in 14th but everyone is still wanting to know if Chelsea have turned the corner. For me I think they are starting the corner but they haven’t turned it yet. They’ve had some decent results recently but I think they could have had more especially against Tottenham last time out. They pretty much parked the bus against Spurs when maybe they should have been a little more positive. Spurs have been good this season but they were tired and Chelsea could have done more to take advantage of that. Regardless though they have a home game here this week against a struggling Bournemouth side. Bournemouth aren’t just struggling for results, they’re also struggling with injuries which doesn’t bode well for their chances here. I think we’ll see a much more positive display from Chelsea this week where the floodgates could open with a few goals.
Predicted score: Chelsea 3-0
Best Bet: Chelsea to win to Nil at $2.25 (85%)
Next Best: Chelsea to win both halves at $3.2
Newcastle ($5.5) versus Liverpool ($1.57), Draw ($4.33)
Liverpool are on a run at the moment and I can’t see much hope for Newcastle here. They’ve won just the 2 games this season and another big loss could spell the end for Steve McClaren. Liverpool should still approach this game with a bit of caution given Newcastle are wounded but I don’t think they’ll have much trouble. They are in good form and the returns of the likes of Sturridge have given them a real boost. Sturridge marked his return to the starting line-up with 2 first half goals in Liverpool’s 6-1 thumping of Southampton in the Capital One Cup during the week. They’ve now won 4 straight in all competitions and a favourable run of fixtures could see them near the top heading into the New Year. A big win here will continue that momentum and I think they’ll get it.
Predicted score: Liverpool 3-0
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $1.74 (85%)
Next Best: Liverpool to win at $1.57
Everton ($2) versus Crystal Palace ($3.75), Draw ($3.5)
Week 15 finishes off with Everton hosting a Crystal Palace side that have had some good results in recent weeks. They’ll be particularly boosted by that 5-1 win over Newcastle last time out that should give them plenty of confidence. Everton won’t be easy though despite a mixed result last time out when they drew 3-3 with Bournemouth after leading 2-0. On their current run of form, Everton should get a big win here. Their last 4 results have seen them win 6-2 over Newcastle, draw 1-1 with West Ham, beat Villa 4-0, and draw 3-3 with Bournemouth. Going from that run of 14 goals in 4 games you would think they would get a big win here but I’m not so sure. Palace don’t really concede a lot of goals that often and I think that coupled with Everton looking to close up a bit at the back after last week’s draw may see this one an evenly matched affair. I’m leaning towards an Everton win but either way this one should be close.
Predicted score: Everton 2-1
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $1.74 (75%)
Next Best: Both teams to score – Yes at $1.62