The 2015/16 season has certainly had plenty of ups and downs in the 3 rounds already and there’s no doubt going to be a few more as Match Day 4 kicks off this weekend. Genuine surprises this season have no doubt come in the form of Leicester and perhaps Chelsea’s stuttering start. For Leicester it’ll no doubt be a question of whether they can sustain the good form they’ve shown in the first 3 games but the majority of the lower end sides that start well tend to fade over the season and they have a tough game against new boys Bournemouth away this week. For Chelsea it’s been a surprise that they’ve only captured the 4 points from their first 3 games whilst rivals Manchester City have skipped to a 5 point lead already. It’s early days though and it will only take a couple of poor results from City for them to catch up. The injection of new signing Pedro may just be the kicker to get their season going and given he hit the ground running it’d be no surprise to see them kick into gear now.
**Odds from Sportsbet as at 29th August
Newcastle ($6) versus Arsenal ($1.61), Draw ($3.8)
It hasn’t been a horrible start for Newcastle with 2 draws and a loss from their first 3 but it’s still clear they have work to do on and off the pitch. They face another big test here against Arsenal after keeping Manchester United scoreless in their 0-0 draw last week. Arsenal had a great battle with Liverpool last time out but neither side could manage to squeeze past two goalkeepers in top flight. I think Arsenal have been a bit unlucky not to score a few more goals and should have added a couple against Liverpool. 2 goals in 3 games isn’t what Wenger would have wanted but on the positive though they are creating chances. Whilst they may have only scored twice, they lead the league in shots per game at 20.3 and sit 3rd in shots on target with 6. Newcastle of course kept a clean sheet against Man United last time out but they themselves have been struggling for goals with 1 of their 2 goals being an own goal. This is a game that Arsenal should control and with a bit more luck they should get a few goals. Newcastle may have kept a clean sheet last week but not without letting Man United have their chances. Arsenal should make this 10 games undefeated against Newcastle having won 7 and drawn 2 of their last 9 meetings.
Predicted score: Arsenal 2-0
Best Bet: Arsenal to win at $1.61 (85%)
Next Best: Arsenal to lead at half-time at $2.1
Aston Villa ($1.91) versus Sunderland ($4.5), Draw ($3.3)
There was a sign of improvement for Sunderland last time out after their 1-1 draw at home to a good Swansea side but there’s still a lot of things pointing towards relegation already. They’ve conceded 8 goals already which is no surprise given they lead the league for shots on goal conceded at 19. Villa themselves haven’t exactly been brilliant but they’ve managed a win and conceded a far more respectable 3 goals in comparison. They’ll feel confident of creating more chances this weekend as well in their second home game of the season. For me I think Sunderland in the short term will be looking to grind out some results but whilst they fought back against Swansea they will need to move on quickly from their Cup fixture against Exeter during the week that ended 6-3. Villa similarly had a 5-3 win in their Cup tie against Notts County during the week but it’s clear Villa are a step ahead of Sunderland in terms of the side being settled so I’d expect a home win here.
Predicted score: Aston Villa 2-0
Best Bet: Aston Villa to win at $1.91 (80%)
Next Best: Under 2.5 goals at $1.67
Bournemouth ($2.2) versus Leicester ($3.2), Draw ($3.5)
This is one the games I’m looking forward to most this weekend. Bournemouth broke through for their first win in the top flight last week with a fantastic 4-3 win away at West Ham whilst Leicester are the talk of the league undefeated in 3 when many of us thought they’d struggle this year. The thing I like about Bournemouth is that they don’t sit back and they play their own game. You could see it away at Liverpool where they could have scored a couple themselves to create a big upset. They’re going about the football the right way and it makes for great viewing especially if you like an underdog. Likewise Leicester haven’t really sat back but their attacking output has dropped since their opening day thumping of Sunderland. Against Sunderland they were all over them scoring 4 times from 18 shots on goal (9 on target). Against West Ham they still generated a good number of chances with 9 shots on goal but from a lower possession base which probably limited their ability to generate attacks a little despite winning the game. Against Tottenham it dropped again with 7 shots on goal and just the 2 on target but they just seemed to be happy to sit back a bit knowing that they had the pace to hurt Spurs on the counter. I think this game will be more even in terms of possession and with both sides liking the attacking part of the game we could be in for an exciting end to end contest but I think a draw in the end may still be the most likely outcome.
Predicted score: Draw 2-2
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $1.87 (85%)
Next Best: Both teams to score – Yes at $1.62
Chelsea ($1.4) versus Crystal Palace ($7.5), Draw ($5)
Another tricky encounter for Chelsea here after their troubled start to the season with just the 4 points from a possible 9. Their first win of the season away to West Brom wasn’t without any controversy either with a Baggies penalty that was saved in the first 15 minutes to go along with a 2nd half red card for John Terry. A win is a win though and it might just be what they needed to get them going. The addition of Pedro into the side adds another attacking outlet and he had an instant impact scoring the first goal and then added an assist for Diego Costa just 10 minutes later. They take on a Palace side that has impressed and will continue to impress this season. 2 wins and a tight loss to Arsenal is an excellent start to the season for them and I don’t think they’ll shy away from the challenge here. Palace have been one of the better attacking sides so far scoring in all 3 games and averaging the 6th most shots on target. Chelsea need to be tighter in defence having already conceded 7 times, albeit slightly inflated by 2 red cards this season. It does show that there’s been some frustration so far so they’ll need to focus here because Palace will be dangerous. History is against Palace here given they haven’t registered a league win at Chelsea since 1982 and whilst I think they’ll cause problems I think Chelsea will register another win to get back on track.
Predicted score: Chelsea 2-1
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $1.65 (90%)
Next Best: Chelsea to win and both teams to score at $3.02
Liverpool ($1.4) versus West Ham ($7.5), Draw ($5)
The defensive issues that seemed to have plagued Liverpool in recent seasons seem to have dissipated so far in their first 3 games of 2015/16. With 3 clean sheets down they’ll be eager to make that 4 against a West Ham that has fallen apart since their stunning opening day win away at Arsenal. There is however room for improvement in Liverpool which simply put is that they need to convert their chances. It’s always easier said than done of course but on the positive side of that aim is that they are creating those chances and they’ll create plenty more against West Ham here. The Hammers have conceded 6 goals in their last 2 games by losing to Leicester and Bournemouth which won’t do their confidence much good. The positive is that they themselves are scoring goals with 6 already but it’s not much good if you can’t stop the other side from scoring them. The loss of Adrian to a red card hurt them a bit in their last game and as he serves the 2nd of his 3 games ban it’s likely to hurt them a bit more. For me watching Liverpool against Arsenal in their 0-0 draw it felt like they weren’t too far away from scoring a couple and this just might be the game where they get their scoring boots on.
Predicted score: Liverpool 3-0
Best Bet: Liverpool -1 handicap at $2 (90%)
Next Best: Both teams to score – No at $1.83
Manchester City ($1.22) versus Watford ($13), Draw ($6.5)
This is Manchester City’s to lose after an excellent start to the season with 3 straight wins and 3 clean sheets to go along with it as well. They haven’t been easy fixtures on paper either at West Brom and Everton away from home with a home fixture against reigning Champions Chelsea in-between. It should be interesting then to see how newly promoted Watford tackle this contest who have been competitive with 3 draws in their first 3 games. Defensively Watford have been good with the 2 clean sheets but they’ve been unable to convert in their last 2 games and with City in such good form both offensively and defensively I’m struggling to see how they can get something from this game. I can see Watford trying to make it difficult for City to create through Midfield and perhaps focusing on closing down space on David Silva but there’s still avenues to goal through the likes of Sterling and Toure. In the end though I think Man City will run out comfortable winners later in the contest to make it 4 in a row.
Predicted score: Manchester City 3-0
Best Bet: Both teams to score – No at $1.91 (90%)
Next Best: Manchester City to win both halves at $2.31
Stoke ($1.9) versus West Brom ($4.33), Draw ($3.4)
The new look Stoke have a chance to impress at home against bottom of the league West Brom this weekend. Stoke themselves are yet to register their first win of the season but I think they’d be wise not to underestimate Pulis’s West Brom. In saying that, there have been some distractions for West Brom in the past week surrounding the bids flying in for Berahino from Tottenham which you’d imagine would keep him sidelined once again until the transfer window shuts. His absence and the distraction it puts on the rest of the side could do more harm than good and I think it’ll play into the hands of Stoke here. Stoke haven’t exactly been in top form but they look a lot more settled and should register their first win of the season here. Xherdan Shaqiri will again look to impress after an excellent debut where he setup the first goal against Norwich last week and I think he’ll be keen to impress in his first home game. I think West Brom will try to keep it tight against a new look Stoke attack but one way or another Stoke should get the goal they need for the win.
Predicted score: Stoke 1-0
Best Bet: Half-time Draw at $1.91 (85%)
Next Best: Under 2.5 goals at $1.63
Tottenham ($2) versus Everton ($3.75), Draw ($3.5)
Spurs host Everton this week in their 2nd home game of the season and will be desperate to avoid the embarrassment of their 2-2 draw at Stoke a few weeks ago having had a 2-0 half-time lead. The evidence is clearly there that Tottenham have struggled at home in recent times and Everton will likely make it a tough afternoon for them again if they aren’t fully focused. Last week away at Leicester they managed to switch off crucially after they scored what was looking like a late winner through Dele Alli but Mahrez managed to score an equalizer less than a minute later. It’s becoming a bit of a trend and something that they desperately need to fix otherwise this will be another long season. Everton have so far had some interesting results this season. A draw on opening day to Watford was followed up with an excellent display to beat Southampton 3-0 and last week they were decent against Manchester City without being able to get anything from the game. One thing that worries me for Everton is that defensively they have some work to do. They’ve allowed almost 15 shots on goal per game so far and the pressure surrounding the potential sale of John Stones could be an unwelcome distraction if he does end up playing this weekend. For Tottenham they’ll be hoping Harry Kane can find a goal here having scored just twice in his last 11 Premier League games and so far registering just the 2 shots on target in 244 minutes of football this season. He’s been creative but he needs support and if he can get it then Spurs have a chance but right now I think a draw is the likely outcome given Tottenham’s frailties at home recently.
Predicted score: Draw 1-1
Best Bet: Under 2.5 goals at $1.91 (70%)
Next Best: Half-time draw at $2.1 with the full-time draw at $3.5 a bit more value.
Southampton ($1.95) versus Norwich ($3.8), Draw ($3.6)
The heights of last season for Southampton look a distant memory now given the turnaround in the squad and the performances they’ve put in this season so far. One positive though is they were knocked out of the Europa League during the week which allows them more time to focus on the league and push back up the table. They have a lot of work to do though as Norwich have been handy this season. Norwich have scored in each of their 3 games so far which bodes well against a Southampton defence that has fallen from the heights of being the 2nd best defence in the league last season where they conceded just the 33 times. They did improve defensively against Watford last time out where they managed a clean sheet compared to 5 goals conceded in their first 2 games. For me though Southampton are still a good side with good players but they’re just navigating their way through the loss of players in Schneiderlin, Clyne, and Alderweireld. The impact on them from their away Europa League fixture during the week will be interesting but it’s still early in the season to be using fatigue as an excuse for a poor result here. Norwich will push Southampton here but I think the home side might just sneak a win which will give them a boost.
Predicted score: Southampton 2-1
Best Bet: Both teams to score – Yes at $1.8 (75%)
Next Best: Over 2.5 goals at $1.98
Swansea ($3.3) versus Manchester United ($2.25), Draw ($3.3)
Both sides are unbeaten here which should make for a great contest and perhaps even more so for Swansea given they are looking to make it 3 in a row against United. With Gomis in such excellent up front for Swansea too it should make for a busy day for United’s defence having scored 8 goals in his last 9 games. That’s in contrast to his opposite number in Rooney who hasn’t scored in his last 9 games although he did get back to some form in their Champions League qualifier with a hat-trick which should boost his confidence. Swansea though look to be a different proposition and will be harder to break down but I just sense that something will happen for United soon. They didn’t get the goal they needed last time out against Newcastle in their 0-0 draw and having only scored twice, of which one was an own goal, they’ll be pressing hard to get one here. Perhaps what makes this difficult for Swansea to make it 3 in a row against United will be that defensively United look solid having kept 3 clean sheets so far. For me I don’t see a lot of goals in this one with both sides up there in passing %’s as well as possession so it should be an even battle. Both sides will have chances to score here but for me I think a draw looks the likely result as a 1-1.
Predicted score: Draw 1-1
Best Bet: Under 2.5 goals at $1.65 (70%)
Next Best: Exactly 2 or 3 goals at $1.99