Welcome to week 31 of the English Premier league where we find ourselves in the home stretch of what has been an incredible season. The unbelievable nature of it is headlined by a Leicester City side that truly believe they can win this after maintaining their 5 point lead over 2nd placed Tottenham with a hard fought 1-0 win over Newcastle last time out. The pressure will continue to come though as the remaining 8 games for the top 2 sides will no doubt start to build towards being Cup Final like in nature. It’s becoming a similar situation for the chasing pack fighting for a top 4 position. Arsenal and Manchester City continue to stumble in recent results with West Ham closing in fast and an unpredictable Manchester United not too far behind either. Anything can happen and I have no doubt a lot will happen in these final games.
**Odds from Sportsbet as at 19th March
Everton ($2.62) versus Arsenal ($2.75), Draw ($3.25)
The Gunners have failed to win any of their last 3 league games and still just have won just once in their past 8 games in all competitions. An away trip to Everton where they have failed to win on their last 3 attempts will add to the pressure that is already building on their title hopes. The loss of Petr Cech in recent weeks could turn out to be a crucial blow to their title aspirations. Arsenal’s recent away form is pretty horrible as well for a top 4 side where in their last 6 away they’ve won just the 6 points and also let through 12 goals. Given they have only conceded 30 goals all season, to let through 12 in their last 6 away games suggests they’re certainly not at their best at the moment. Everton themselves though haven’t been the best at home this season though where they’ve only won 4 of 15 games so there could yet be an opportunity for the out of form Arsenal. As for this one though, it’s difficult to see a clear winner on either end. Arsenal haven’t been convincing and Everton haven’t always convinced at home. With that said I’d still expect a good contest here and one that may end in a draw. Everton have enough firepower up front to trouble a fragile Arsenal defence.
Predicted score: Draw 2-2
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $1.68 (80%)
Next Best: Both teams to score – Yes at $1.53
Chelsea ($1.75) versus West Ham ($4.75), Draw ($3.75)
This is a massive game for West Ham as they sit just 2 points off the top 4 and the potential for Manchester City & Arsenal to drop points could bring them level on points with Manchester City and possibly Arsenal if they lose. Confidence is high too after 3 really good wins that has propelled them to this position and given Chelsea’s unconvincing season anything is possible in this one. With that said, Chelsea have been really difficult to beat since Hiddink took over from Mourinho and you’d expect them to get something from this at home. They’re on a 13 game unbeaten run in the league and despite West Ham’s recent run of form I’d expect Chelsea to get a point from this at least. The likes of Hazard and Diego Costa sitting this one out due to injury and suspension hurts them but Hazard hasn’t been at his best this season and the absence of Costa gives an opportunity to another player hungry to prove themselves.
Predicted score: Draw 1-1
Best Bet: Double Chance West Ham at $2.1 (80%)
Next Best: Under 2.5 goals at $1.94
Crystal Palace ($2.8) versus Leicester ($2.55), Draw ($3.3)
Every game for Leicester will have some form of pressure but if they keep scoring first then they are well on the way to another win and a magical title. 3 of their last 4 games have been won 1-0 which shows that their scoring output has dropped but in the end a win is a win and another 3 points maintained or increased on Tottenham. Facing Palace is another tricky test for them this weekend. Palace are looking for the most part safe from relegation but will still want some more results to ensure their safety so not playing to win won’t be an option for them. It’s easy to forget that they still haven’t won in the league in 2016 but they have been in all of their games not losing by more than a goal since their 3-1 defeat against Tottenham in January. I think again Leicester will be provided with a test and it’ll be interesting to see how they come through this. Palace will cause some trouble but right now it’s still too difficult to go against the run Leicester are on at the moment.
Predicted score: Leicester 2-1
Best Bet: Leicester to win at $2.55 (75%)
Next Best: Half-Time Draw at $2
Watford ($2.45) versus Stoke ($3), Draw ($3.25)
A morale boosting win over Arsenal in the FA Cup could spark a run of form for Watford who had taken just the 1 point in their previous 3 league games. A win this week will also get them to that 40 point barrier and safety for next season after being promoted. They have the momentum too after Stoke have stumbled in recent games. The Potters have a loss and draw in their last 2 games and now also have some injury issues. Shaqiri will miss along with Shawcross, Wilson, and Glen Johnson. That’ll mean some shuffling at the back in defence and perhaps the opportunity for Igahlo to net again after he did so in their FA Cup win over Arsenal. It was his first goal since their FA Cup win over Nottingham Forrest at the end of January and I’m sure that will spark him into more action this week (he is a slight doubt with injury but should play).
Predicted score: Watford 2-1
Best Bet: Watford to win either half at $1.74 (80%)
Next Best: Watford Draw No Bet at $1.62
West Brom ($2.2) versus Norwich ($3.5), Draw ($3.25)
Norwich showed some life with a well fought draw against Manchester City last week but on form they arguably have a tougher task here to get something out of the trip to West Brom. The Baggies are undefeated in their last 4 games with 3 wins and look determined on finishing in the top 10 this season and a win here will go a long way to help them achieve that. Norwich’s issues recently stem from a lack of goals. They’ve scored just 3 times in their past 6 games and just once in their last 6 games away from home. That away form is what hurts them and scoring just 1 goal in that time explains why they lost their last 6 away to go along with 13 conceded. For the Baggies they’ll be pretty confident of keeping a strong home run of form going. Over their last 6 home games they are undefeated with 4 wins and on Norwich’s recent form I’d back West Brom to continue that run.
Predicted score: West Brom 2-0
Best Bet: West Brom to win either half at $1.68 (80%)
Next Best: West Brom to win at $2.2
Swansea ($1.67) versus Aston Villa ($5.5), Draw ($3.75)
Their fate is ultimately sealed and Villa will surely just be playing for pride now. Their loss to Tottenham last week was their 20th of the season and the gap to safety has stretched to 9 points now. Swansea were in a bit of strife a month ago staring at relegation themselves but they now have an 8 point gap on the drop and another win here puts them just 4 points from that 40 point safety target that. Villa will no doubt play as positively as they can in some sort of effort to get results and they played that way against Tottenham last time out where they created some really good chances. They’ll do so again here but I doubt they’ll be able to create enough to take the points away from home where they’ve taken just 6 all season.
Predicted score: Swansea 2-0
Best Bet: Swansea to win at $1.67 (85%)
Next Best: Swansea to lead at Half-Time at $2.3
Newcastle ($2.15) versus Sunderland ($3.5), Draw ($3.3)
A new manager, a narrow loss to Leicester, and a massive derby where both sides are likely playing for the final spot to save themselves from relegation. There’s a lot going on ahead of this game and Benitez perhaps has the upper hand ahead of this derby with the players more upbeat after a changing of the guard. They didn’t get anything from the loss against Leicester in terms of points but there was a lot to take out of that game ahead of this crunch match. Sunderland won’t be easy though as they’ve shown themselves to be quite a stubborn side under Allardyce and I’d expect more of the same this weekend. With that said I can’t help but feel enticed to back Newcastle and Benitez here. They’ve struggled for goals all season scoring the 2nd least of any side with 28 and just 3 in their last 6 but I can see Benitez pushing them in the right direction, at least for the short term. That new manager effect might just have come at the right time to get a win over their rivals.
Predicted score: Newcastle 2-1
Best Bet: Newcastle to win at $2.15 (75%)
Next Best: Over 2.5 goals at $1.99
Southampton ($2.7) versus Liverpool ($2.7), Draw ($3.25)
Southampton got back to winning ways last time out when they beat Stoke 2-1 but face a difficult task in keeping this Liverpool side quiet. Liverpool are on a 3 games winning streak and will be on a high after knocking out Manchester United in the Europa League during the week. They’ll need that confidence too against a Southampton side that have proven to be at times hard to break down though given their recent run of games I’d expect there to be goals for both sides here. Southampton have conceded 6 times in their last 4 and whilst Liverpool are more than capable of scoring a plenty, they’re also very capable of conceding. For me this game is in the balance as for a clear winner but there will be goals.
Predicted score: Draw 2-2
Best Bet: Both teams to score – Yes at $1.83 (90%)
Next Best: Over 2.5 goals at $2.15
Tottenham ($1.53) versus Bournemouth ($6), Draw ($4.33)
It was clear that Tottenham conceded their position in the Europa league during the week when Harry Kane and Dembele were rested with an eye towards this game against a Bournemouth side on a roll. The one blessing that Tottenham can take from being knocked out of the Europa League is that they can now firmly focus on the league and their remaining 8 games. They’ve lost just once in their last 9 league games and if their title hopes are to remain alive they need to keep the wins coming in and hope Leicester drop points at some stage. The problem I have with Bournemouth is that whilst they’ve been on a great run I just can’t see them making it 4 in a row against a title contender. They’ll have a go no doubt at Spurs here but for me that will just create opportunities for Tottenham to punish them. I also can’t see how they can slow down Kane who is in great form at the moment and I’m sure he’ll be keen for another hat trick to repeat the effort from the last time these two met. That might be a lot to ask of course.
Predicted score: Tottenham 3-1
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $1.7 (90%)
Next Best: Tottenham to win at $1.53
Manchester City ($1.8) versus Manchester United ($4.5), Draw ($3.7)
A big derby to finish off the weekends football with Manchester City taking on arch rivals Manchester United. One thing we’ll all be hoping for is some goals after the boring nil all draw we witness earlier in the season and surely with Manchester City in danger of dropping out of the top 4 we’ll see a bit of effort towards that this week. the problem though is United aren’t far away from City sitting just 4 points behind them so you have to wonder how hard these two are going to go for the win knowing that a loss for either side won’t help their top 4 bids. I’d expect a negative approach here from LVG as he looks to not lose ground on their rivals but I think that might just play into the hands of City here. City I don’t think will be going all out either but if United don’t offer much of a threat then they should have enough to get the 3 points in what should be a pretty tight game.
Predicted score: Manchester City 1-0
Best Bet: Half-time Draw at $2.1 (80%)
Next Best: Under 2.5 goals at $1.82