A fantastic round of Boxing Day fixtures saw a few surprises not least the smashing Southampton dished out to Arsenal when they won 4-0. Thankfully for Gunners fans the blow will have been softened given that Leicester also lost to Liverpool keeping the gap to top spot at just 2 points. It did however mean that 3rd placed Manchester City were able to close the gap to 1 point behind Arsenal whilst Spurs also kept in striking distance of the top 3 through their strong 3-0 win over Norwich. There are some big games this week though that could have an impact on the table with Leicester hosting Man City. It could potentially give Arsenal top spot if they bounce back against Bournemouth and Leicester lose. Another fixture to look forward to is that of Watford and Tottenham. Watford again proved their credentials when they upset Chelsea to snatch a point at Stamford Bridge and should make a tough match of it for Tottenham. It just goes to show that this season is one of the most open yet and anything can and will happen.
**Odds from Sportsbet as at 26th December
Crystal Palace ($2.05) versus Swansea ($3.75), Draw ($3.25)
Held against Bournemouth, Palace will be looking to get a good win over Swansea despite Swansea’s breakthrough 4th win of the season against West Brom on Boxing Day. It was a handy and much needed win for Swansea but their credentials ahead of this match won’t give them a lot of chances to win here. Ultimately Palace did well to be held by a Bournemouth side high on confidence and in good form given their 3 straight wins over Chelsea, Man United, and West Brom. Bournemouth had the better chances in that game but a clean sheet can always be taken as a positive away from home. I’m not giving Swansea much of a chance ahead of this game. They have a poor record away from home and whilst their win on Boxing Day will give them a boost, I think Palace will be too hard to beat at home here. The loss of Bolasie will hurt Palace a bit given how damaging he can be but I think that will just make it closer than it probably should be.
Predicted score: Crystal Palace 1-0
Best Bet: Under 2.5 goals at $1.62 (75%)
Next Best: Crystal Palace to win at $2.05
Everton ($1.95) versus Stoke ($4), Draw ($3.4)
This will be a really tough game for both sides given that Stoke have lost just twice away from home and Everton have lost just once in their last 6 games. Stoke had a great win over Man United on Boxing Day but I’m not so confident that they can win here. One of the issues I have with Stoke is that they haven’t scored enough goals away from home with just 6 from 9 games. One thing I’m more confident of is that Stoke can get a draw here as they’ve been playing some really good football this season. Equally for Everton I just can’t see them losing and the amount of draws they have (8) shows that they are either hard to beat or just can’t close out games. Either way I think this will end in a draw.
Predicted score: Draw 1-1
Best Bet: Under 2.5 goals at $1.77 (75%)
Next Best: Double chance Stoke at $1.83
Norwich ($2) versus Aston Villa ($3.75), Draw ($3.4)
Norwich started really well against Tottenham and were the more dominant team for the first 15 minutes before it started to unravel for them to lose 3-0. I think that start will put them in good stead against a Villa side that whilst has picked up 2 points in their last 2 games, they are still struggling to get a win. I don’t think they’ll get a breakthrough for that win here against Norwich but I do think they’ll be competitive. They’ve effectively only lost one of their last 4 games and defensively they have improved under Garde conceding just the 5 goals compared to 28 in their previous 14 games. Defence is one of the keys to building a successful side and whilst Villa are not by any means going to become a successful side very quickly, they can pick up points in the short term by being a tough side to beat. I think they’ll make it tough for Norwich here to get the 3 points and this might be another game that ends in a draw.
Predicted score: Draw 1-1
Best Bet: Both teams to score – Yes at $1.83 (80%)
Next Best: Norwich to win either half at $1.55
Watford ($3.5) versus Tottenham ($2.1), Draw ($3.4)
This is probably the toughest fixture in this round of matches given how well both have been going. Watford are undefeated in their last 5 winning 4 with a draw last time out against Chelsea. They have done so well that they are sitting in 7th just a point off 5th and 3 points behind Spurs in 4th. Defensively they are pretty solid and they score enough goals to trouble any side. Equally, Spurs have had a great season. they have the best defensive record in the league now, the equal best goal difference and have lost just the 2 games. The trouble is as good as Tottenham have been, I can see Watford getting something from this. They have a great structure and approach to the way they play that I think makes it difficult for a lot of teams to break them down. As a Spurs fan I’ll of course be going for a Tottenham win but I have my reservations from a betting perspective because I’m really impressed with Watford so far this season.
Predicted score: Draw 1-1
Best Bet: Tottenham to win either half at $1.57 (75%)
Next Best: Double Chance Watford at $1.67
West Brom ($2.25) versus Newcastle ($3.25), Draw ($3.25)
Both sides lost their last match and will be eager to bounce back here. This is no doubt a tougher contest for Newcastle on the road than it is for West Brom. Newcastle were on a good run after wins against Liverpool and Tottenham before drawing with Villa and then losing to Everton. The problem with Newcastle is that they are going to be fairly unpredictable in their form when compared to West Brom they are going to be generally pretty difficult to beat. Newcastle played pretty well against Everton though and I don’t think they’ll be down for too long about that result. They are definitely playing a lot better recently and with West Brom coming off 2 losses I think they can snatch a point here.
Predicted score: Draw 1-1
Best Bet: Half-time draw at $1.91 (80%)
Next Best: Under 2.5 goals at $1.65
Arsenal ($1.44) versus Bournemouth ($7.5), Draw ($4.33)
A shock loss for Arsenal should kick them into gear here when they host Bournemouth. To lose 4-0 will no doubt be a big wake-up call but they can’t underestimate Bournemouth because they are playing some pretty good football at the moment. The problem for Bournemouth though is that I wouldn’t expect Arsenal to be down for too long and not for 2 games in a row. They’ve lost just once at home this season and overall have been very difficult to beat. I would take that Southampton result as a bit of an anomaly and perhaps one of those losses that sometime you need to have to reset and refocus. You can expect that Bournemouth will throw everything at Arsenal as they really have nothing to lose but it’s safe to say we should expect Arsenal to bounce back here.
Predicted score: Arsenal 3-0
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $1.61 (85%)
Next Best: Arsenal to win both halves at $3.5
Manchester United ($2.62) versus Chelsea ($2.75), Draw ($3.2)
In a different season this would have been a much more important contest but both sides haven’t been in the greatest of form lately. You can argue that Chelsea have a bit more momentum under new manager Hiddink whilst United are clearly struggling to perform. It’s now 3 losses in a row for United and it’s in danger of being 4 in a row. Chelsea will of course have to do it without Costa after he picked up his 5th yellow which should see Remy get a start. Remy is a good player and with his pace I think he’ll cause United a few problems along with Pedro and Willian. I think they’ll have enough to get the 3 points as well. There’s certainly a better felling about Chelsea at the moment with the controversy and pressure certainly all over United at the moment. Chelsea might have drawn their last game but against a tough side in Watford it’s not too bad of a result and I think they can build on that to get the 3 points here and make things more miserable for Man United.
Predicted score: Chelsea 2-1
Best Bet: Chelsea Draw no bet at $2.1 (80%)
Next Best: Both teams to score – Yes at $1.83
West Ham ($3.2) versus Southampton ($2.25), Draw ($3.3)
The Hammers have no doubt been struggling to get a win but they’ve at least made it so they are difficult to beat as shown by their 5 draws in a row. They face an interesting test here against a Southampton side that routed title favourites Arsenal 4-0. That was a great win on the back of a pretty poor run where they hadn’t won since 8th November. It’s difficult to back a side who’ve broken through for a shock win to then back it up the following week. I think they may just get another win here but West Ham won’t make it easy. The other reason I can’t see West Ham getting a win here is that they just haven’t been scoring enough goals. 3 goals in their last 6 games isn’t good enough and Southampton will have some confidence back up front from their win over Arsenal.
Predicted score: Southampton 1-0
Best Bet: Half-Time Draw at $2 (70%)
Next Best: Southampton to win at $2.25
Leicester ($4) versus Manchester City ($1.83), Draw ($3.75)
They lost but they didn’t lose top spot thanks to Arsenal losing to Southampton. That’s one positive Leicester can look at ahead of their game against Manchester City. It’s hard to gauge how Leicester will go here now after that loss to Liverpool and the fact that Mahrez and Vardy had little impact on the game. They were both substituted in the 2nd half which suggests there may have been an eye on this game. Either way I don’t think we can be under any illusions to how Leicester will play here. They’ll create their chances and have every opportunity to take the 3 points however Manchester City played some great football against Sunderland last time out which should give them a boost. A blow for Man City though was the return and quick departure of Vincent Kompany who reinjured his calf. That hurts for such a big game here but I think they can manage without him for the short term. As for this game I think it presents danger for Man City in that Mahrez and Vardy have the pace and tricks to get back to scoring ways. They’ll be buzzing for such a big game too so I’d expect plenty of energy from Leicester here. As for a result you’d expect Leicester to bounce back from the Liverpool result but equally Manchester City played well against Sunderland and have their own attacking frontline that can trouble anyone. A draw may be the go here but expect goals.
Predicted score: Draw 2-2
Best Bet: Both teams to score – Yes at $1.5 (90%)
Next Best: Over 3.5 goals at $2.36
Sunderland ($5) versus Liverpool ($1.7), Draw ($3.75)
This mid-week round of fixtures finishes up with Sunderland hosting Liverpool with the pressure certainly on Liverpool to back up their 1-0 win over Leicester. For me I’m a bit sceptical about Liverpool’s consistency with 2 losses, a draw, and a win in their last 4 games. Then again this is a Sunderland side that looks to be struggling again having lost 4 games in a row. After another poor run they see themselves 5 points off safety so the pressure is no doubt heavily on Sunderland as well. In the end I can see Liverpool taking this one. They’ll have some stern resistance from Sunderland as they try to fight their way from relegation but right now they just don’t have the momentum or confidence to get any points.
Predicted score: Liverpool 2-1
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $1.93 (80%)
Next Best: Liverpool to win at $1.7