This season has already thrown up plenty of surprises as per normal but it’s fair to say many wouldn’t have thought Leicester would be sitting in 2nd and Chelsea in 16th even if it’s just been 2 games. It is of course early days and things can change in a few games with the competition already so fierce. With the results we’ve already had there’s some particularly important games ahead this weekend. Two of particular mention are Chelsea away at West Brom and Leicester hosting Tottenham. If Chelsea suffer another shock loss then the questions and pressure are going to keep on coming in and even more so if Manchester City get another win away at Everton who were impressive at Southampton last time out. Of course City will stumble at some point but Chelsea really need to get a move along. For Leicester they will have the luxury of playing with little pressure at home to a Tottenham side with some dented confidence after their home draw to Stoke after leading 2-0 at half-time. It should make for some high pressure and entertaining football to enjoy this weekend once again.
**Odds from Sportsbet as at 20th August
Manchester United ($1.36) versus Newcastle ($8.5), Draw ($5)
Wins are wins no matter how you get them and that’s how it’s been for Manchester United thus far in 2015/16 with a 1-0 win over Tottenham followed up with a 1-0 win over Aston Villa. For Newcastle it’s been a familiar start to last season with a loss and a draw in their first 2 games but so far they’ve conceded the 4 goals which doesn’t bode too well against a Manchester United side yet to hit their stride. Manchester United unsurprisingly have a strong record over Newcastle with just the 2 losses since September 2001. One of those wins though was their first at Old Trafford since 1972 and based on that frequency it’s difficult to see another win for Newcastle anytime soon at Old Trafford. Man United are of course yet to really convince this season but many sides are in a similar position and I’d expect a win for the home side here. Newcastle struggled at Swansea after conceding in the first 10 minutes and then having Janmaat sent off just before Half-time making it next to impossible to rescue something from the game from there. I think Newcastle will come good at some point this season as they have the signings to do so but Man United look too strong in this one. Memphis Depay will be boosted by his brace during the week in their Champion’s League qualifier too and may fancy himself to continue that form.
Predicted score: Manchester United 2-0
Best Bet: Manchester United to lead at Half-Time at $1.83 (75%)
Next Best: Both teams to score – No at $1.8
Crystal Palace ($1.85) versus Aston Villa ($4.5), Draw ($3.5)
The first half between Crystal Palace and Arsenal last time out was thrilling and Palace showed that they’re going to be a strong side this year by sticking with them to draw 1-1 at half-time. An own goal ultimately robbed them of a handy point but they have an opportunity against the visiting Aston Villa this weekend. Defensively Villa have been fortunate with their clean sheet against Bournemouth and their 1-0 loss at home to Manchester United. Credit of course to Villa against United, but United are still working themselves out in the final third and haven’t created a lot of chances this season thus far. Palace on the other hand have notched up 4 goals and held their own against a resurgent Arsenal side and should get a home win here. This is a fixture that hasn’t really produced a lot of goals in recent times either with the last 4 producing just the 3 goals. I wouldn’t expect this to product more than 2 goals but Palace are looking the goods at this stage and should notch a home win.
Predicted score: Crystal Palace 2-0
Best Bet: Crystal Palace to win at $1.85 (80%)
Next Best: Under 2.5 goals at $1.71
Leicester ($2.62) versus Tottenham ($2.7), Draw ($3.3)
Life is good for a Leicester fan right now after 2 wins to kick off the season and you can’t blame them for feeling pretty confident about making it 3 from 3 against Tottenham this weekend. What has been most impressive about Leicester so far has been their attack and the pace that they have in the side. Mahrez in particular has been in scintillating form with 3 goals in 2 games and he’ll be a big threat against a Tottenham side that switched off defensively against Stoke last time out. Tottenham in 3 halves have been pretty good this season but their second half against Stoke where they let through 2 goals after leading 2-0 at half-time will be of particular frustration to them. It’s a worrying trend though that persisted through last season and is something they need to fix quickly. One positive for Tottenham last season was their away record where even though they lost 6 times on the road, they managed 9 wins and 4 draws which was the 5th best away record in the league. Losses on the road last season included 4 against traditionally big clubs in Man City, Man United, Liverpool, and Chelsea with their other 2 losses coming at the hands of tricky sides Palace and Stoke. Spurs certainly seem to have some mental barriers when they play at home so there’s an unpredictable aspect to what they’ll produce away from home this weekend. In game 1 against United they were pretty good and whilst I think they’ll be better this weekend than at home last time out they may have to settle for a draw at best. Leicester are up and won’t give in easily.
Predicted score: Draw 2-2
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $1.77 (80%)
Next Best: Both teams to score – Yes at $1.62
Norwich ($2.4) versus Stoke ($3), Draw ($3.3)
Stoke will be looking to build some momentum after their 2nd half comeback against Tottenham last week to draw the game at 2-2. To add to that momentum building should be the debut of new signing Xherdan Shaqiri who will no doubt be eager to have an instant impact. It’s an intriguing string to Stoke’s bow this weekend against a Norwich side that will have been encouraged by their away win over the hapless Sunderland last week. For me this is a question though of whether we can look too much into Norwich’s win given the clear defensive issues Sunderland have had by conceding 7 goals in 2 games already. Norwich themselves have conceded 4 in 2 games and whilst a win will give them a boost I think Stoke will have gotten more from their result against Tottenham last week and they should come out and win here. Their away form hasn’t been great the last few seasons winning just the 8 games but that’s where they’ll get their improvement from this season if they want to push higher up the table with the games against the newly promoted sides crucial to that end result.
Predicted score: Stoke 2-1
Best Bet: Stoke to win at $3 looks value (70%)
Next Best: Stoke Draw no bet at $2.23
Sunderland ($4) versus Swansea ($2.05), Draw ($3.25)
Letting through 7 goals already was certainly not the start Sunderland wanted ahead of the 2015/16 season. They had reasons to be optimistic after some decent signings as well as Dick Advocaat staying on for the season after rescuing them from relegation at the end of last season. It just goes to show you can’t easily fix the issues that they’ve had defensively and it will take time to adjust with a new central partnership of Coates and Kaboul. You would certainly expect some changes this week to the line-up which is a risk in itself with a new partnership being installed at the back. They then have the task of taking on a Swansea side on a good run after an opening day draw at Chelsea followed by a solid home win over Newcastle last week. Their frontline is in good touch as well with Gomis and Ayew already bagging 2 goals each so they’ll have no end to their confidence against a low confidence Sunderland side. In some ways I’d expect a much better showing here from Sunderland at the back but having not shown much improvement last week it’s difficult to expect anything more from them this week. I’m backing a Swansea win here but I’m also of the thought that Sunderland will be a little more focused defensively though not enough to stop a Swansea win.
Predicted score: Swansea 1-0
Best Bet: Swansea to win at $2.05 (80%)
Next Best: Swansea to win either half at $1.55
West Ham ($2.25) versus Bournemouth ($3.3), Draw ($3.3)
After the highs of beating Arsenal on opening day, West Ham were brought back down by the in form Leicester with a 2-1 home loss. Adding to the challenges ahead of this weekend’s fixture against Bournemouth is that they will be without No.1 choice Goalkeeper Adrian after his red card. His form against the Gunners on opening day was excellent and it makes for some difficult decisions ahead for West Ham this week. At the time of writing this, they are looking to bring back experienced keeper Robert Green from QPR given they don’t have a great deal of quality backup for Adrian. If they don’t manage to get in a replacement it should make for an even more interesting contest. Bournemouth have lost their first 2 games but have been pretty tight defensively keeping Liverpool to 1 goal last time out whilst also doing the same to Villa in their opening fixture. They were pretty unlucky against Liverpool in that the first goal should have been disallowed under the changes to the offside rule as well a Matt Ritchie shot on goal that hit the woodwork. They created enough chances to show they’ll be a threat at times this season and they’ll have chances again this weekend. The problem is West Ham are still a good side despite the absence of Adrian and I can see them bouncing back for their first home win.
Predicted score: West Ham 2-1
Best Bet: Half-time draw at $2.1 (70%)
Next Best: Total goals odd at $1.91 (for me it’s either going to be a 1-0 or 2-1 result)
West Brom ($6) versus Chelsea ($1.61), Draw ($3.8)
There’s plenty of pressure on Chelsea to get their first win of the season as they prepare for the away trip to West Brom. It could be a tricky fixture for them too with West Brom having a good record over Chelsea recently winning 3 and drawing 2 of the last 7 meetings. West Brom seemed to fix up their defence last time out against Watford having been torn apart the week previous against a rampant Manchester City. Their problem however seems to be more up front after last week they failed to register a shot on target. Chelsea have no doubt had a tough start to the season but they are still an excellent side and I don’t think they can be kept down for much longer. If they get another poor result here then there is something clearly not right at Chelsea but for me I’m expecting Chelsea to bounce back to get their first win of the season.
Predicted score: Chelsea 2-0
Best Bet: Chelsea to win at $1.61 (90%)
Next Best: Under 2.5 goals at $1.75
Everton ($3.5) versus Manchester City ($1.73), Draw ($4)
Both sides enjoyed great wins last week with Everton cruising to a 3-0 away win at Southampton whilst Manchester City easily got past Chelsea with a comfortable 3-0 win themselves. The way in which City dealt with Chelsea though makes for a scary prospect for Everton here though they do tend to play well against them. The last 5 games at Everton have resulted in 3 wins and a draw in favour of Everton whilst the last 3 have been decided by less than a goal. If that’s anything to go by then we should be in for a thrilling contest but for me City are looking the more menacing. The return to the starting line-up of Sergio Aguero against Chelsea is a massive bonus not to mention the strong form of Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure who have both scored 2 goals now. Add to this the form of David Silva and the defensive boost in the signing of Otamendi from Valencia and things are going along very nicely for City. Of course you can’t ignore past results between these two and Everton showed themselves to be a great threat against Southampton with Lukaku picking up 2 goals but for me City should be winning this and the fact they’re 5 points ahead of Chelsea already should drive them to that result.
Predicted score: Manchester City 2-1
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $1.58 (90%)
Next Best: Second half to produce the most goals at $1.99
Watford ($2.7) versus Southampton ($2.7), Draw ($3.25)
It seems as though the changes to this Southampton side, whom boasted the 2nd best defensive record in the league last season, is having an impact. They’ve already conceded 5 goals in 2 games and face a trip to a newly promoted side that have shown they can be dangerous. I think they are sorely missing the presence of Schneiderlin in midfield so they may take some time to adjust to his absence defensively. Watford have 2 draws from their first 2 games which is a solid effort to the start of the season but a win will do them a great deal of good for their survival aspirations this season. Adding to their favour this week will be Southampton’s Europa League fixture to Midtjylland which may affect the Saints form as they back up from a short break between games. We’ve seen side sin the past struggle to adapt to the Europa League whilst managing their performances in the Premier League and I think Watford might be able to get something from this one. Watford may have only had a draw against West Brom in their last game but they created a lot of shots on goal with 15 in total (8 on target). With home ground a slight advantage I’m backing Watford for a win here against a Southampton side that needs tightening defensively.
Predicted score: Watford 2-1
Best Bet: Both teams to score – Yes at $1.8 (75%)
Next Best: Watford to win either half at $1.88