English Premier League action is back this weekend as we head into the final 7 games of the 2015/16 season. The title race is still close despite Leicester holding a more than handy 5 point lead over Tottenham but given how odd this season has been so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if stranger things continued to happen in the final stages of the season. The action won’t just be at the top though as the battle for survival heats up with Newcastle, Sunderland, Norwich right in the firing line whilst Palace and Swansea are safe for now but a few bad results will put the pressure right back on.
**Odds from Sportsbet as at 2nd April
Multi Option: West Ham to win ($1.91), Stoke to win ($2.15), Chelsea to win ($1.6), Manchester City to win ($2.10) = $13.79
Aston Villa ($6) versus Chelsea ($1.6), Draw ($3.9)
Another manager down for Villa though it looks more of an attempt to build for next season in the Championship rather than making a late push for survival. 12 points off safety and 21 points available for Villa to win in their final games is clearly a big ask and with the visit of Chelsea this weekend you can expect little from Villa at the moment. With that said they may have moments of playing with a bit of freedom and they may surprise a few in their run home but I wouldn’t expect them to get much out of this game. Chelsea have had a terrible season sitting in 10th after winning the title last season but they haven’t lost in the league since the middle of December and I wouldn’t expect that to change this week. They still have a shot at a European place which gives them something to play for. Chelsea might not excel this weekend but they should win.
Predicted score: Chelsea 2-0
Best Bet: Chelsea to win at $1.6 (90%)
Next Best: Chelsea to win both halves at $4.33
Arsenal ($1.36) versus Watford ($8.5), Draw ($5)
Just the 2 wins in their last 5 league games has done Arsenal no favours in their bid for the title and they now sit 11 points off the pace, albeit with a game in hand. They take on a Watford side that knocked them out of the FA Cup as well at this ground just a few weeks ago. That loss might drive them to a better performance here though as they look not only for some payback but also to keep in touch with the top 2 in Tottenham and Leicester. Watford have also been on a bad run in the league losing their last 3 straight and although they’ll fancy themselves of repeating their FA Cup heroics, I think they might fall a little short. It will be a close game but Arsenal’s class will edge this one.
Predicted score: Arsenal 2-1
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $1.67 (85%)
Next Best: Arsenal to lead at Half-Time at $1.8
Bournemouth ($3.6) versus Manchester City ($2.1), Draw ($3.4)
A 3 game winning streak was cut short for Bournemouth last time out when they went down 3-0 rather easily at Tottenham. With an extra week’s break ahead of this weekend’s visit of Manchester City, you’d expect them to provide some better competition for a Manchester City side with just the 1 win in their last 6 games. It has almost felt like City had given up on chasing the title but now that they have West Ham and Manchester United just 1 point behind, I’d expect them to start getting results again to ensure they finish in 4th place at least. The break won’t have only done Bournemouth good, it should have done City some good as well. They’ve struggled recently to score goals with 3 of their last 4 games they’ve failed to score in. They’ve had a boost on the injury front too with Nasri and De Bruyne back in training and they could well make an appearance of sorts in this one. Still expect this to be a tough game as the Cherries have shown to be no easy beats at times this season but in the end I see Manchester City taking the 3 points here.
Predicted score: Manchester City 2-1
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $1.78 (85%)
Next Best: Manchester City to win at $2.1
Norwich ($2.25) versus Newcastle ($3.3), Draw ($3.3)
Things are looking up for Norwich after winning their last game against West Brom. Before that game they weren’t looking like getting a win any time soon. They now have a chance to make it 2 in a row against a Newcastle struggling not just for form but with key injuries. Another goal keeper is out in Rob Elliot meaning young keeper Darlow will need to step in this week. He showed some good signs in his earlier season game but the pressure of relegation when you’re in between the sticks is still a big ask to deal with. Adding to the pressure is the injury cloud of Janmaat adding to the already injured Coloccini and Dummett. It’s not an ideal time to have injuries when you’re trying to fight your way out of the relegation zone and it sees the advantage turn to Norwich in this one and for me they’ll be the ones to beat. They too have their own question marks given they sit just 2 points above the drop but they’ll look to take some momentum from their win over West Brom. This will be an interesting contest and despite Newcastle’s injuries and suspension of Colback, I’d still expect them to be competitive enough for a Draw.
Predicted score: Draw 1-1
Best Bet: Both teams to score – Yes at $1.83 (75%)
Next Best: Norwich to win either half at $1.63
Stoke ($2.15) versus Swansea ($3.6), Draw ($3.25)
The Potters got back to winning ways before the International break to make it 4 wins and a draw from their last 6 games. Likewise for Swansea, they made it 3 wins from their last 4 when they beat a lowly Aston Villa 1-0. Whether they can get much from this one though will remain a big challenge. Swansea don’t have a great record away from home this season winning just 3 times though they will have some help on the injury front at Stoke. The season ending injury of Jack Butland is a massive blow to Stoke who are just 5 points off the top 4 and are well in contention to finish in a European spot. I think regardless of the injuries, that potential to finish higher up the table will continue to drive this Stoke side. Swansea have shocked on the road this season most recently beating Arsenal but Stoke are not a side that gives away points at home easily and I don’t see this week being any different.
Predicted score: Stoke 2-0
Best Bet: Stoke to win at $2.15 (80%)
Next Best: Stoke to win either half at $1.63
Sunderland ($2.15) versus West Brom ($3.6), Draw ($3.25)
A good run of form for West Brom was ended last time out when they lost to Norwich at home and they now face another tough test against a relegation threatened Sunderland. Relegation scraps are becoming all very familiar to Sunderland these days and I don’t think they’ll feel the pressure too much. Their fight for survival has seen them lose just once in their last 6 games and that trend should continue at the very least this week. There won’t be a lot of goals in this one either with neither side really boasting attacks capable of scoring multiple goals regularly and for me that gives Sunderland a good advantage. They’ll be looking to keep it pretty tight anyway given their relegation predicament and I have to question where West Broms motivation is going to come from in comparison to a team fighting to survive.
Predicted score: Sunderland 1-0
Best Bet: Under 2.5 goals at $1.55 (90%)
Next Best: Sunderland to score exactly 1 goal at $2.5
West Ham ($1.91) versus Crystal Palace ($4), Draw ($3.6)
West Ham are closing fast on a top 4 spot and with Manchester City struggling for form and Manchester United still inconsistent, they are will in the running to do so. Unbeaten in their last 5 games with 3 wins is a great base ahead of this fixture against Palace. Palace still haven’t won in the league since December and away to West Ham will be no easy game. Another loss puts them well in contention for relegation if Sunderland and Norwich get results this weekend and that’s when the pressure will really start to come from for the remainder of the season. West Ham have lost just twice at home this season and this week will not be their third.
Predicted score: West Ham 3-1
Best Bet: West Ham to win at $1.91 (85%)
Next Best: Over 2.5 goals at $1.93
Liverpool ($2.5) versus Tottenham ($2.9), Draw ($3.3)
Probably the match of the weekend ahead of title chasing Leicester’s match against Southampton. Tottenham are no doubt the side to beat in this match but they have to go against history where they haven’t won at Anfield since 2011 and haven’t beaten Liverpool since 2012. The good thing about history though is that it’s in the past and having watched Spurs all season there’s a clear difference in this side this year compared to seasons gone by. They’re no longer a side with a soft belly in that they have the best defence in the league conceding just the 24 goals in 31 games. That’s quite a turnaround to the side that conceded 53 in 38 games last season. that’s enough to convince me that anything can happen this weekend and I can’t forget that Liverpool aren’t the side they were from a few seasons ago when they had a rampaging Suarez chasing the title. With respect though, they are still a good side on their day and Tottenham will need to be wary of that. The likes of Coutinho are capable of magical performances and this week could be no different. The problem might be that the injury clouds and doubts over another magician in Firmino may harm some of their creativity up front. It’ll be interesting to see too if some of those key players under fitness clouds aren’t risked with a big Europa league fixture against Borussia Dortmund coming up.
Expect a strong showing from both sides here but I’m backing Tottenham to keep the pressure up on Leicester.
Predicted score: Tottenham 2-1
Best Bet: Tottenham Draw No bet at $2.01 (80%)
Next Best: Over 2.5 goals at $1.98
Leicester ($2.2) versus Southampton ($3.4), Draw ($3.3)
Leicester will either have the luxury of extending their 5 point gap or having to retain it depending on results from the day before between Tottenham and Liverpool. I’m expecting that there will be some pressure on Leicester with Tottenham closing the gap temporarily which will make an already interesting game even more interesting. Leicester will be looking to keep their title dream going against Southampton to make it 4 in a row but this is arguably their toughest fixture compared to their recent 5 game unbeaten run. Southampton are unbeaten in their last 3 winning their last 2 and are right in the running for a top 4 spot still as they sit just 4 points off 4th placed Manchester City. They’ve beaten good opposition in Liverpool and Stoke in their last 2 and the return to form of the likes of Pelle has come just at the right time for their European football push. Going off recent Leicester games as well, they’ve done enough to get the points with 1-0 wins and I think there is potential for them to slip up as a result. Not necessarily for a loss but a draw here and there is likely and Southampton are one of those sides that are more than capable of getting a result like that. It’s difficult to go against Leicester here but I’m going for a draw here as I believe Southampton are good enough at the moment to do so.
Predicted score: Draw 1-1
Best Bet: Under 2.5 goals at $1.64 (85%)
Next Best: Half-Time Draw at $1.91
Manchester United ($2.05) versus Everton ($4), Draw ($3.2)
Week 32 wraps up with Manchester United hosting Everton in a match where they need to win to keep the pressure on rivals Manchester City for a top 4 place. They also need to be wary of a fast finishing West Ham who sit equal with them on points in that fight for the top 4. The good for United though is that they have some form winning 3 of their last 4 games whilst Everton have struggled for results losing their last 2 and currently sit in 12th on 38 points. Everton do of course have 2 games in hand but for this fixture that doesn’t really mean anything and I think they might find it tough to get a result here. For a normally consistent side they’ve been pretty inconsistent this season compared to United, and that’s saying a lot because United have been pretty bad at times. With that said, United are starting to build through their youthful inclusions such as the exciting Rashford and for the remainder of this season at least that should see them get some good results starting with Everton here.
Predicted score: Manchester United 2-1
Best Bet: Half-time Draw at $2 (75%)
Next Best: Over 2.5 goals at $1.99