A busy run of fixtures begins this weekend with a packed Boxing Day consisting of 10 games to keep us entertained. Leicester will once again command a lot of attention as they look to continue their amazing season against Liverpool. Having lost just the one game this season they are looking more and more like top 4 and potential title contenders. There’s still an argument that this may be a flash in the pan but for now they are playing undeniably excellent football. A good win over Liverpool will maintain their 2 point gap over genuine title contenders Arsenal. 3rd placed Manchester City are certainly not out of the race but their form has been questionable of late as they deal with injuries and if they continue to waver in their form then they could slip from title calculations in the short term. Either way it’s set to be an action packed Boxing Day run of games.
**Odds from Sportsbet as at 26th December
Stoke ($3.25) versus Manchester United ($2.3), Draw ($3.25)
The pressure is well and truly on Man United ahead of the first game on Boxing day. United have lost their last 2 games and haven’t won in their last 4 and with the pressure mounting on manager LVG you’d think this is one game well and truly in Stoke’s favour. Stoke are coming off two tricky games with a scoreless draw against West Ham and a home loss to Crystal Palace last time out at home. I think Stoke will move on from that loss pretty quickly and will setup well against United here. So far this season they’ve beaten big sides in Manchester City and Chelsea whilst also gaining draws at Tottenham and with Leicester so this is certainly not beyond them. For me I’m going to go with Stoke given the pressure United are under and the fact the players clearly aren’t that happy with LVG it seems.
Predicted score: Stoke 2-1
Best Bet: Half-time Draw at $1.91 (70%)
Next Best: Double chance Stoke at $1.53
Aston Villa ($2.62) versus West Ham ($2.8), Draw ($3.2)
Villa earned a hard fought point against an in form Newcastle last week and will try and use that as a foundation against the struggling West Ham here. Villa’s struggles have been well documented still with just the 1 win this season but West Ham too are struggling. The Hammers haven’t won a top flight game in their last 7 contests but seem to have been enjoying a draw with 5 draws from those 7 games. That to me shows they are competitive in that they fight hard but also shows they lack a cutting edge up front – it’s clear once again they are missing the creativity and drive of Payet. I’m still not convinced that Villa can get to winning again but I think they’re showing a bit more fight lately as shown against Newcastle and Southampton in their last 3 games. Given West Ham have failed to convince I can see Villa getting at least a point here as they try to close the gap on those above them.
Predicted score: Draw 1-1
Best Bet: Under 2.5 goals at $1.59 (80%)
Next Best: Half-time draw at $1.91
Bournemouth ($2.5) versus Crystal Palace ($2.87), Draw ($3.3)
Bournemouth are on a fantastic run of results wining 3 in a row after wins against Chelsea, Man United, and West Brom. It puts them in a great position to make it 4 from 4 but I think Palace will be a difficult opponent for them. Palace themselves are on a good run undefeated in their last 4 winning 3. They’re also in better form than the last 3 opponents that Bournemouth have faced which for me adds a bit of difficulty to get a win here even if the belief is building. I think this is more of a mental barrier for Bournemouth than anything given they now sit in a relatively safe (for now) position of 14th on the table and 4 points above the drop zone. It’s a mental barrier too that I think they might find it tough against Palace. Palace have been really good away from home this season losing just 2 from 8 to go along with 5 wins. I think they’ll make it tough for Bournemouth and should just get the 3 points.
Predicted score: Crystal Palace 2-1
Best Bet: Crystal Palace to win either half at $1.95 (80%)
Next Best: Crystal Palace to win at $2.87
Chelsea ($1.5) versus Watford ($6.5), Draw ($4.33)
Chelsea may have gotten off to a good start post Mourinho but they’re coming up against an underestimated side in Watford. Watford have played really good football this season and have definitely been flying under the radar given they currently sit in 7th and just 1 point off the top 4. The interesting thing for this game though now is the Mourinho-less factor. Chelsea certainly played a lot different in their win over Sunderland last week and if they play the same way they’ll probably make it 2 wins in a row over Watford here. If Mourinho was still in charge you’d give Watford the advantage given the way they have been playing this season to get the 3 points. Regardless though, I can see this being a really good match and perhaps one of the contests of the day. Chelsea still have some tidying up to do in defence and Watford will give them problems through the in form Ighalo who’s scored 11 times this season already. As for a winner I’m leaning towards Chelsea here, but only just.
Predicted score: Chelsea 2-1
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $1.74 (85%)
Next Best: Chelsea to win at $1.5
Liverpool ($1.91) versus Leicester ($3.8), Draw ($3.8)
I’m a little baffled as to why Leicester aren’t given more respect in the odds here. They’re top of the table having lost just once this season yet they’re huge value at $3.8 to beat a Liverpool side that hasn’t won a game in their last 3. Liverpool’s home form isn’t exactly convincing either with just the 3 wins from 8 this season. It seems as though people are waiting for the Leicester bubble to burst but I think that time has past for now and at the moment they are just a genuinely top side riding high on huge belief. For the moment it’s still not time to jump off the Leicester train as it just keeps on going.
Predicted score: Leicester 2-1
Best Bet: Leicester to win either half at $2.22 (85%)
Next Best: Leicester to score 2 or more goals at $2.5
Manchester City ($1.22) versus Sunderland ($13), Draw ($6.5)
They currently sit in 3rd and 6 points off the top and 4 points off 2nd placed Arsenal so this is certainly a must win game for Man City to keep in touch with the front runners as we near the halfway point of the season. They’re recent form hasn’t been great though losing 3 of their last 6 which has seen them drop to 3rd. Probably part of that drop in consistency has been the absence of Captain Vincent Kompany. Their last 6 games they’ve conceded 10 goals compared to 9 in their first 11 so I think it’s safe to say they’ll welcome some stability to their defence this weekend. Another plus for City is that their injury list has significantly shrunk with Nasri the only player really set to miss against Sunderland. Not that it should have made much difference anyway, but I think Sunderland will always have struggled here. They’ve lost their last 3 games and upsetting City away from home looks too much of a big ask.
Predicted score: Manchester City 3-0
Best Bet: Manchester City to win both halves at $2.3 (75%)
Next Best: Both teams to score – No at $1.83
Swansea ($2.05) versus West Brom ($4), Draw ($3.2)
The struggles continue for Swansea as they only managed a point last time out at home to West Ham. They take on West Brom here who again will prove to be a tough opponent despite losing their last game. West Brom ultimately lost their last game against Bournemouth thanks to a first half red card to James McClean but will look to put that behind them to snatch a point or more from Swansea here. The Baggies have been a pretty good away side this season losing just the 2 games and conceding just 7 goals from 8 games which may prove difficult for Swansea given they have struggled for goals with just 15 for the season. It’s clear that they are lacking confidence and despite West Brom losing to Bournemouth last week, I don’t think they will be down and sorry about it. West Brom will be hard to beat here and if Swansea don’t start creating goals then they are in for a real struggle for the remainder of the season.
Predicted score: West Brom 1-0
Best Bet: Double chance West Brom at $1.8 (75%)
Next Best: Under 2.5 goals at $1.55
Tottenham ($1.44) versus Norwich ($7.5), Draw ($4.5)
In the top 4 and full of confidence, Tottenham will be looking to back up their good 2-0 win over Southampton last week with another over Norwich on Boxing Day. Spurs have again proven their solidarity in defence with another clean sheet to go with their equal best defensive record in the league with just 14 goals conceded in 17 games. but it’s not just defensively where they have proven to be stubborn, up front they are starting to show their attacking attributes to give them a handy and healthy +14 goal difference which could come in useful come the finish of the season. Add to this that Harry Kane has found his goal scoring boots scoring 8 goals in 8 games and it’s hard to go past Tottenham getting a good win here. Norwich have shown some fight this season and had a great win over Man United last week but I just feel that Tottenham are a step up from United at the moment and have a lot more confidence.
Predicted score: Tottenham 3-0
Best Bet: Tottenham -1 Handicap at $2.1 (90%)
Next Best: Tottenham to win to Nil at $2.4
Newcastle ($3.1) versus Everton ($2.3), Draw ($3.4)
It was a little back to reality for Newcastle last time out when they had to settle for a point at home to Villa having come off two excellent wins against Liverpool and Tottenham. They now face another tricky test in Everton and I feel that maybe they are more comfortable playing away from home with less expectations. Those 2 wins against Liverpool and Tottenham were both away from home giving them perhaps a little more freedom to play under less pressure and perhaps that pressure got to them a little last week at home to Villa where they really should have won. This will be an interesting contest though because as good as Everton have been at times this season, they haven’t won for 4 games and are in need of a win to push back towards the European places. I can’t help but feel that maybe Newcastle will slip back to poor form in this one in terms of losing. I think they’ll be competitive enough but Everton have been scoring a lot of goals this season through Lukaku who has 13 of the teams 31. The main issue I see for Newcastle is that they just can’t seem to stop conceding and I don’t think they’ll stop Everton.
Predicted score: Everton 2-1
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $1.71 (85%)
Next Best: Everton to win at $2.3
Southampton ($3.75) versus Arsenal ($2), Draw ($3.5)
Boxing Day finishes off with title contenders heading to Southampton in search of a 4th win in a row to keep in touch with table toppers Leicester City. The Gunners have been in really good touch lately and that win over Manchester City last time out will give them a lot of confidence. They are genuine title contenders at this stage. For Southampton they’ve really struggled for points lately with just 1 from their last 5 games and I think they’ll struggle for points in this one as well. They just don’t seem to be scoring enough goals which is shown in that they have scored just 2 in their last 5 games and given Arsenal’s tough defence that has conceded just 14 all season, I think they may struggle again to break through here. Southampton to have any chance will have to stop Ozil here given he now has 15 assists this season, 8 more than any other player. Problem is, I don’t think they can stop him or Arsenal at the moment.
Predicted score: Arsenal 2-0
Best Bet: Arsenal to win at $2 (90%)
Next Best: Southampton to score no goals at $2.8