A cracking weekend of EPL is upon us and there’s a few critical games that could have some big implications by the end of the season. There is of course 13 games left which means a lot can happen but for this weekend there’s some huge battles to take place amongst the top 4. Top placed Leicester have a chance to extend their 5 point lead on the chasing Tottenham and Arsenal when they take on Arsenal away this weekend. A win would see them extend their lead over Arsenal to 8 points and possible the same over Tottenham depending on their crunch match with 4th placed Manchester City who sit just a further point behind. There’s not much more you could want from one of the closest Premier League battles in history.
**Odds from Sportsbet as at 13th February
Multi option: Everton win ($1.55), Chelsea win ($1.44), Southampton win ($2.4), West Ham win ($2.9) = $15.53
Sunderland ($5) versus Manchester United ($1.8), Draw ($3.4)
Sitting in 19th with just the 2 points from their last 4 games leaves Sunderland pretty vulnerable once again before the visit of Manchester United. The positive is that they’ve at least shown fight and have been in the contest in their last 3 games. A narrow loss to Manchester City 1-0 followed by a fight back to 2-2 against Liverpool after being 2-0 down and away from home shows they’re fighting hard for survival. Manchester United aren’t exactly going great guns at the moment either so they will have a sniff. It probably comes down to the United that comes out to play though. If it’s the side that came out to beat Stoke 3-0 a few weeks ago then they have a good chance but if they go the defensive rout then they’ll have issues. I’m backing the former for this one but I don’t think it’ll be a big win in terms of goals. Sunderland will be defensively strong as they’ve shown in their last 3 games and I think that’ll keep them in this one but they’ll probably fall just short.
Predicted score: Manchester United 2-1
Best Bet: Manchester United to win at $1.8 (80%)
Next Best: Over 2.5 goals at $2.07
Bournemouth ($2.05) versus Stoke ($3.75), Draw ($3.4)
A tough but for the most part expected loss for Bournemouth last time out against Arsenal sees them looking to bounce back against a struggling Stoke. Before their loss to Arsenal, Bournemouth were on a good run of 2 wins and a draw and they could get back to winning ways this week given the struggles Stoke are facing through injuries and form. Stoke have gone goalless in their last 4 games and conceded 9 in their last 3. A lot of the defensive decline can be pinpointed on their weakened defence with injuries to Cameron, Wilson, and Shawcross which is something they’ll again need to deal with. Bournemouth don’t really have the same issues at the moment which puts them in a pretty handy position here. They have a new striker that is scoring goals and comfort in knowing they have a healthy 5 point gap on the relegation zone at the moment. It’s not to disregard completely Stoke’s chances as they are still a good side but for me Bournemouth have the momentum to get a win even despite the loss to Arsenal.
Predicted score: Bournemouth 2-1
Best Bet: Both teams to score – Yes at $1.91 (75%)
Next Best: Over 2.5 goals at $2.19
Crystal Palace ($2.3) versus Watford ($3.3), Draw ($3.2)
There was some improvement for Palace last time out as they grabbed a point against Swansea having lost their previous 5 games. They face a tough test this week though to build on that draw as Watford have begun to show some improvement themselves in recent weeks. Their last game against Tottenham they showed huge resilience to only concede a goal even though they were well outplayed. Previous to that they drew with Chelsea and beat Newcastle. Adding to that, they don’t really have any major injury concerns so their main priority is getting some form back. It’s clear they aren’t at the level they were earlier in the season when they were pushing towards the top 5 but they’re still a good enough side to get something from this. Palace still have injury issues up front through the likes of Bolasie and Puncheon but they will be better off with a fitter Adebayor up front. I don’t think it’s enough to get them 3 points but it should be enough to secure another draw.
Predicted score: Draw 1-1
Best Bet: 1st Half Draw at $1.91 (85%)
Next Best: Both teams to score – Yes at $1.91
Everton ($1.55) versus West Brom ($7), Draw ($3.8)
Everton have hit some form lately to shoot up to 8th on the table and have another great chance to add to their 35 points against West Brom this week. The Baggies have issues through injuries and a poor run of form. They haven’t won in 5 games and may be a little weary from their FA Cup tie during the week against Peterborough when they were pushed to penalties. Everton will be fresher after no such tie during the week and will be confident after two solid and convincing wins. For me I can’t see Everton losing this one.
Predicted score: Everton 2-0
Best Bet: Everton to win at $1.55 (90%)
Next Best: Everton to win to Nil at $2.4
Norwich ($2.5) versus West Ham ($2.9), Draw ($3.3)
With 5 losses in a row, Norwich now see themselves in the relegation zone with a really tough game against West Ham this weekend to try and get themselves out of it. Trouble is West Ham are a very good side so Norwich will have to play at their best and West Ham will need to have a slight off day if Norwich are to win. Norwich too have struggled defensively conceding 16 goals in their last 5 games and have only conceded less goals than Sunderland (49) al season. West Ham are in the top 6 for goals scored this season with 38 and whilst they may have gone goalless in their last game against Southampton, I don’t think that will extend into a 2nd game here.
Predicted score: West Ham 2-1
Best Bet: West Ham to win at $2.9 (80%)
Next Best: Over 2.5 goals at $2.03
Swansea ($3.1) versus Southampton ($2.4), Draw ($3.25)
There are two sides in decent form here though one is more of a standout. Swansea are undefeated in their last 4 games whilst Southampton are on a 5 game run of 4 wins and a draw without a goal conceded. That run has seen them push back towards the top 5 where they sit just 4 points behind Manchester United now. Most impressive about Southampton’s win over West Ham last time out was their ability to keep a clean sheet after Wanyama was sent off after 54 minutes. I think that mentality and defensive effort is what will drive them for the rest of the season, not to mention that the return of Forster in goals has been huge for them also. Swansea will have chances here but I can’t go past Southampton getting the result in this one.
Predicted score: Southampton 2-0
Best Bet: Southampton to win at $2.4 (80%)
Next Best: Swansea to score no goals at $2.5
Chelsea ($1.44) versus Newcastle ($48), Draw ($4.33)
Chelsea are still a long way off an ambitious top 4 or 5 place from here being 11 points behind 5th placed Manchester United but they’re on an unbeaten run of 11 games in all competitions. The problem about that run is that they’ve only won 3 times in the league with another 2 wins coming from the FA Cup and their remaining games ending in draws. It’s those draws that will likely harm their ambitious finish to the season. They face Newcastle this week who bounced back from 2 losses to beat West Brom last week. I feel like this might be too much of a challenge for them though and Chelsea should win this. Diego Costa has found some form in the league scoring 3 goals in their last 3 league games and I think his fight up front will see them take the 3 points. The loss of Zouma to a long term injury at the back will hurt but they have a replacement in Cahill that can slot in nicely.
Predicted score: Chelsea 2-0
Best Bet: Chelsea Half-Time/Full-Time at $2.1 (75%)
Next Best: Both teams to score – No at $1.91
Arsenal ($1.73) versus Leicester ($4.75), Draw ($3.8)
Massive contest here with a win for Leicester increasing their lead over 3rd placed Arsenal whilst Arsenal will no doubt push hard for the win to ensure they can close the gap to 2 points on the league leaders. The last time these two met it was a 5-2 win for Arsenal in a game that produced 21 shots on target between both sides. I’m not sure if we’ll get a similar score here but there’s no doubt both sides will have their chances. Leicester seem to play better with sides coming onto them so that they can counter with their pace on the break. With Arsenal expected to dominate possession here that’ll give Leicester their chances. I suppose the issue is will that be too late if Arsenal take their chances early as well. On the flipside, this could be one of those games where it gets a little cagey. Leicester will no doubt be on a high after that win over Manchester City and the realisation that they are genuine title contenders is a new pressure to them. There will be plenty of pressure too on Arsenal as they won their first game last weekend for the first time in 5 having had 3 draws and a loss prior to that. For me Arsenal aren’t in the greatest of form so that could count against them. I still expect them to get something from this but it might just be a point for both sides in the end.
Predicted score: Draw 1-1
Best Bet: Both teams to score – Yes at $1.67 (85%)
Next Best: Double chance Leicester at $2.1
Aston Villa ($4.5) versus Liverpool ($1.85), Draw ($3.5)
There’s some fight about Villa at the moment and whilst they are still 8 points from safety, more results like the one at the weekend will go a long way to a currently unlikely survival bid. Liverpool pose a tricky proposition this week though even if they have only won once in their last 6 games. It’s difficult to know how Liverpool will come out in this one as they certainly need a win but they haven’t been playing well enough to get a win. They let a 2-0 lead slip against Sunderland last week to draw 2-2 at home and they won’t want those scars to creep through in this one against Villa who are starting to believe. Liverpool’s problems stem from their defensive record. They’ve conceded 14 times in their last 6 games and whilst Villa are not exactly a massive scoring threat, they will have chances this weekend and there’s no reason why they can’t take them. It perhaps comes down to what Liverpool do up front. They have the firepower when in form to win games and the recent return of Sturridge could go a long way to them getting a win this week. He may only appear off the bench again after doing so in their FA Cup loss to West Ham during the week but that may be all they need. This will be close but I’m going to edge it to Liverpool and only just slightly.
Predicted score: Liverpool 2-1
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $2.14 (85%)
Next Best: Liverpool to win at $1.85
Manchester City ($2.1) versus Tottenham ($3.5), Draw ($3.5)
A massive game to finish off the weekend with Tottenham heading to Manchester City in their top 4 clash. Tottenham have the 3rd best away record in the league behind Leicester and Arsenal and haven’t lost away from home since the opening day of the season when they let an own goal in against Manchester United. For this one though it looks a really tough one for Manchester City. They were poor against Leicester last weekend and they may still be harbouring some memories of the last time they met Tottenham when they lost 4-1. There were some contentious decisions that day that helped Spurs but the result remains. The difficulty here for City too is their injury list. Kompany, De Bruyne, Mangala, Navas, Bony, and Delph are all set to miss whilst David Silva is another recent casualty could be the next added to that list as he battles to be fit in time for this one. All in all though I think the mentality of Tottenham will see them get something from this game. They don’t concede a lot of goals and on the flipside they do score pretty often. Whether it’s enough to get them across the line will be interesting as City still boast some world class talent in the likes of Aguero and Toure but it’s difficult to not see Tottenham at least getting a point here on current form.
Predicted score: Draw 1-1
Best Bet: Both teams to score – Yes at $1.57 (80%)
Next Best: Double chance Tottenham at $1.72