Premier league action is back after a weekend of 4th round FA Cup fixtures. It’s a busy period for a lot of sides with these mid-week games followed by Match Day 25 this weekend. With fixtures so close together, we could again see some shuffling at the top of the table. Leicester have a handy buffer of a 3 point lead over Manchester City and Arsenal with Tottenham just a further 2 points behind. It’s a tricky period for Man City and Arsenal though as both are experiencing a bit of a drop in consistency and form. City have won just 3 of their last 6 games whilst Arsenal have won just the 2 which is the main reason that sees them sit in 3rd right now and not at the top. As always though, things can change quickly in this league and I wouldn’t be surprised if we had a new leader after the next 2 games.
**Odds from Sportsbet as at 1st February
Arsenal ($1.8) versus Southampton ($4.5), Draw ($3.6)
The Gunners could do with a win after taking just 2 points in their last 3 games whilst Southampton should provide a stern test winning their last 3 including 3 clean sheets. They also have the boost of striker Charlie Austin who found the back of the net on debut to take the points at Old Trafford last time out. It makes for an interesting contest though you’d would have to feel that Arsenal still have the edge given it’s a home game. An added bonus for them is that Sanchez had 78 minutes against Burnley at the weekend so should be ready to go for this one and could well be the difference if he finds some form. For me though, there’s still a bit too much of a doubt at the moment as to the form of Arsenal. They beat Burnley at the weekend with a pretty strong team but only by 2-1. The Saints won the last two meetings against Arsenal by a combined 6-0 and even over the last 8 meetings it’s pretty even at 3 wins a piece. There’s something building at Southampton and a draw is a likely prospect here.
Predicted score: Draw 1-1
Best Bet: Half-time Draw at $2 (75%)
Next Best: Under 2.5 goals at $1.79
Leicester ($2.5) versus Liverpool ($2.8), Draw ($3.3)
The Leicester City train keeps on going with a win over Stoke and their rivals stumbling enough to give them a handy 3 point buffer. Hosting Liverpool will still be a test regardless of Liverpool’s inconsistency this season so we should be in for a good contest here. Liverpool’s issues in defence have come under the spotlight again having failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 4 games. Interestingly in those last 4 games though they scored 8 times in just 2 of them with that crazy 5-4 score line against Norwich last week showing they do still have firepower up front. The problem for Liverpool though is that Leicester have only failed to score twice in the league this season and I don’t see Liverpool keeping them at bay in this one unless they are looking to sacrifice a potential win and settle for a draw at best. This time though, I can’t go past Leicester. They might have only won 2 of their last 6 but the belief they have and the way they play through fast counter attacking football will cause Liverpool problems.
Predicted score: Leicester 2-1
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $2.06 (80%)
Next Best: Leicester to win at $2.5
Norwich ($4) versus Tottenham ($1.91), Draw ($3.5)
The Canaries were terribly unlucky to not at least take a point at home to Liverpool last time out and could have well taken all 3 if not for a brilliant fightback from Liverpool. That loss will no doubt do some damage and it won’t be what they wanted coming up against a tough Tottenham side. Tottenham have lost just once away from home which came on the opening day of the season at Manchester United. They’re in good form too having won 4 of their last 6 and like Leicester, they are showing a lot of belief and hunger especially through their young players. The loss of Vertonghen for the next few months puts a dent in their best in league defensive record so there are a few question marks at the moment over that area in his absence. In saying that, Tottenham still have the momentum for this one and I’d expect nothing less than a Spurs win here. Wimmer looks more than capable of filling Vertonghen’s boots until his return later in the season.
Predicted score: Tottenham 3-1
Best Bet: Tottenham to win at $1.91 (90%)
Next Best: Tottenham to win and over 2.5 goals at $3
Sunderland ($6.5) versus Manchester City ($1.5), Draw ($4.2)
Still stuck in the depths of the relegation zone, Sunderland have made plenty of changes through the January transfer window to try and push their way out come the end of the season in May. I think it’s too soon though for them to cause a bit of an upset for the visiting Manchester City who are still one of the favourites for the title despite some inconsistent results in recent weeks. On trend they should win this game after results of WDWDWD and I think they’ll be too strong. Whilst the results are inconsistent for City, on form compared to the rest of the league they are in 2nd over the past 6 games and have conceded just the 4 goals in that period whilst knocking in 12. Right now for Sunderland to have any chance they need to stop leaking goals. This season they’ve conceded 46 goals which is the most in the league and against a side with the most goals scored I don’t like their chances.
Predicted score: Manchester City 3-0
Best Bet: Manchester City to win at $1.5 (95%)
Next Best: Over 2.5 goals at $1.66
West Ham ($1.83) versus Aston Villa ($4.5), Draw ($3.4)
After losing to Newcastle, West Ham came out and almost beat Manchester City at home in the end having to settle for a point. They still have a chance for the top 4 in the long run but need to get past a defiant Villa who’ve remained undefeated in their last 3 games which is a good turnaround in form for them considering they have just 13 points from 23 games. The problem for Villa remains though that they just cannot score enough goals. They’ve scored just 18 times in 23 games whilst conceding a hefty 38 and despite recent results I think they’ll find it tough to get much out of West Ham here. Villa still have a mountain to climb in order to survive this season and it’s still looking like it’s just a bit too high for them being 10 points off safety. West Ham don’t often lose at home either with just the 2 home losses so far this season.
Predicted score: West Ham 2-0
Best Bet: West Ham to win at $1.83 (80%)
Next Best: West Ham to win to Nil at $2.88
Crystal Palace ($2.25) versus Bournemouth ($3.3), Draw ($3.2)
They’re looking safe overall, but another loss for Palace to make it 5 in a row may start to make things harder as the season goes on. Their goal scoring issues are still paramount despite breaking the duck against Tottenham in their last league game. Despite that though, they still have scored just once in their last 6 games. Bournemouth have been fairly tight at the back recently as well letting just 6 goals in over their last 6 games. They too have had some issues with scoring regularly though but are in a much better position scoring 5 times over that period. For this one I’m inclined to think it’ll be a similar result to their last meeting though with the slight difference that there will at least be a couple of goals. Palace breaking their scoring duck against Tottenham will give them some relief whilst I feel Bournemouth have been more than competitive enough recently to get something from this.
Predicted score: Draw 1-1
Best Bet: Under 2.5 goals at $1.65 (85%)
Next Best: Exactly 2 or 3 goals at $1.91
Manchester United ($1.73) versus Stoke ($5), Draw ($3.6)
A tough loss for United thanks to a late winner from Charlie Austin could be followed up by another tough result against Stoke this week. The last time these two met wasn’t so long ago either where Stoke came away 2-0 winners. To get another win though, Stoke will need to break a streak of not winning at Old Trafford since 1976. That sounds difficult to overcome but given the way in which Manchester United have been falling at home in recent seasons, it’s certainly not impossible. They’ve lost twice and draw 4 times at home this season which isn’t the United of old so Stoke may be able to sniff out an opportunity here. With that said though, I kind of feel like this might be one for United to win. Stoke haven’t won in their last 4 in all competitions whilst United might be able to take some momentum out of their 3-1 FA Cup win over Derby. I’m certainly not convinced but United might be able to edge it.
Predicted score: Manchester United 1-0
Best Bet: Under 2.5 goals at $1.59 (75%)
Next Best: Half-time draw at $1.91
West Brom ($2.6) versus Swansea ($2.9), Draw ($3)
West Brom face a Swansea side who’ve suddenly found some form after wins over Watford and Everton and it should make for a close battle. West Brom have been solid at home in recent weeks just losing 1 of their last 6 conceding just the 5 goals including fixtures against Tottenham and Arsenal. Defensively I think they’ll have enough to keep Swansea at bay despite their recent turnaround in form. I just have reservations about Swansea’s away form despite their last away game being that 2-1 win over Everton. That was just their 2nd win away from home so they have a bit to prove if they are going to win this and right now I think it might just be too close to call so a draw might just the go here.
Predicted score: Draw 1-1
Best Bet: Under 2.5 goals at $1.47 (90%)
Next Best: Half-time draw at $1.83