A long run of fixtures kicks off this weekend as we head into the typically demanding run of games through December and into the New Year that will test even the best of sides. It should also make for an interesting tussle at the top of the table with just 2 points separating the top 4 and just 5 points between the top 6. For me I’ll be most interested to see how Leicester navigate this period. They’ve been incredible this season losing just 1 game in 12 to sit in 3rd and if they can manage to stay in the top 4 when the first week of January hits then who knows where they will end up come the end of the season. I’ve certainly had my doubts about them at times this season but they’ve proven a lot of people wrong so we may as well enjoy the ride.
**Odds from Sportsbet as at 21st November
Watford ($4) versus Manchester United ($2.05), Draw ($3.25)
Watford and Man United kick the weekend off and whilst it’s certainly not the most attractive matchup on paper it should still be a pretty good contest. Watford’s biggest strength this season has been defensively and they’ve shown that before the International break conceding just 2 goals in their last 3 games. At home they’ve been even better conceding just 4 times in 6 games keeping 4 clean sheets in the process. United currently sit in 4th which I think is a pretty generous return given they haven’t really played overly consistent football this season. Just like Watford though, defensively they have been excellent conceding just 8 goals in 12 games but where they have fallen down lately has been in front of goal. The goals have dried up a bit having scored just twice in their last 3 and they’ll have a makeshift frontline this weekend with Martial out injured, whilst Captain Wayne Rooney is to miss through illness. That creates a bit of a headache for LVG on who to play up front and I think that will give Watford a great chance to get something from this game. It will no doubt be a pretty tight and low scoring contest that may well see no goals with the edge to United if we do see a result who despite no recognised striker look attractive value at $2.05.
Predicted score: Draw 0-0
Best Bet: Under 2.5 goals at $1.56 (85%)
Next Best: Half-time Draw at $1.91
Chelsea ($1.4) versus Norwich ($8), Draw ($4.75)
Chelsea’s shocking run continued in their last game when they lost 1-0 to Stoke and there’s no guarantees that they will get back on the winners list against a Norwich side that really has nothing to lose here. The issue for Norwich is that they finally had a win in their last game having not won previously since Mid-September when they beat Bournemouth 3-1 so their ability to win regularly isn’t that great. I’m sure they would have been disappointed too that the International break came because now Chelsea will have had some time to reset whilst Norwich could struggle to take momentum from their last result. Norwich also have a pretty poor away record with just the 5 points from a possible 18 whilst conceding 15 goals in those 6 away games as well. There’s no doubt Chelsea have been poor but surely a 4th win of the season will come in this one albeit with no high degree of confidence.
Predicted score: Chelsea 2-1
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $1.71 (85%)
Next Best: Both teams to score – Yes at $1.91
Everton ($1.57) versus Aston Villa ($6.5), Draw ($3.9)
Villa may have surprised in their last game under new coach to get a point at home to Manchester City but I don’t think they’ll be able to repeat that effort away to Everton here. The International break would have given new manager Remi Garde a chance to get some more work in with his players but some will have been absent through International duty so it will have impacted their preparation for this one. For Everton they have been a little up and down this season as shown by their results over their last 6 games with 2 wins, 2 draws, and 2 losses. I don’t think that should diminish their chances for this one though given they are at home to a side that is still struggling and particularly in the areas where you can’t afford to struggle – scoring goals and keeping them out. Villa have only scored 10 times this season and whilst they may add 1 to that this week on the wave of a new Manager, Everton shouldn’t be losing this.
Predicted score: Everton 2-1
Best Bet: Everton to score 2 or more goals at $1.68 (80%)
Next Best: Exactly 2 or 3 goals at $1.99
Newcastle ($2.7) versus Leicester ($2.6), Draw ($3.4)
A 2nd win for Newcastle last time out pushed them out of the relegation zone and their previous opponents Bournemouth into it. Newcastle face a rampaging Leicester this week that don’t look like slowing down anytime soon sitting in 3rd with just 1 loss for the season. At some point Leicester will start to feel the effects of a pretty leaky defence as I don’t think they can ride on their scoring form all season. It’s difficult to go against Leicester in this one given how well they have played this season and whilst I’m a bit nervy that Newcastle could get something from this I think Leicester will take the 3 points. Vardy and Mahrez have been unbelievable this season combining for 19 of their team’s 25 goals and I think there’s little doubt they will add to that tally this week with Newcastle in the bottom 5 for goals conceded.
Predicted score: Leicester 2-1
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $1.68 (95%)
Next Best: Leicester to win at $2.6
Southampton ($1.61) versus Stoke ($6), Draw ($3.75)
Southampton are a side flying under the radar a little bit this season. After 12 games they have lost just twice this season and just once in their last 11 games in all competitions. It puts them in a good position ahead of playing Stoke this weekend because Stoke have been playing really well lately winning 4 of their last 6 including being the latest side to give Chelsea a defeat last time out. They seem like they are back to their defensive best too by conceding just the 3 goals in their last 6 and they’ll need to be at their best with Southampton in some good scoring form. Southampton have scored at least 2 goals in each of their last 5 but will need to be at their best to get past Stoke’s defence. Stoke have also only lost once away from home this season which gives them something ahead of this but in the end I think Southampton will steal this one in a tight contest.
Predicted score: Southampton 1-0
Best Bet: Under 2.5 goals at $1.71 (80%)
Next Best: Southampton to win at $1.61
Swansea ($1.95) versus Bournemouth ($4.2), Draw ($3.4)
The struggles for Swansea continued in their last game when they lost to Norwich 1-0 and the visit from Bournemouth this week is an interesting test for them. Bournemouth sit in the relegation zone and whilst they won’t win a lot more games this season, they will have a nothing to lose approach which can make them dangerous. Swansea are down at the moment with plenty of pressure on so they really have to win this weekend otherwise it could mean a manager change pretty shortly. The International break has probably come at a good time for them though as it gives them some time to reset and head into this game with a bit of confidence. They have already lost to promoted sides Watford and Norwich so I’m sure they’ll be eager to not allow that to be 3 losses to the newly promoted sides. Bournemouth don’t score a lot of goals either and whilst they have a dangerous element to them I don’t think they have the ability to get the points here.
Predicted score: Swansea 2-0
Best Bet: Swansea to win at $1.95 (85%)
Next Best: Swansea to win to Nil at $3.2
West Brom ($6) versus Arsenal ($1.57), Draw ($4.1)
They may have lost their last 2 games but they made things pretty difficult against Manchester United last time out and I think they’ll make it difficult for Arsenal this week as well. Before that they also lost to the in-form Leicester but weren’t out of the game by losing 3-2 and I don’t think their last 2 results will dent their confidence too much having won 2 games in a row prior to that. The problem though is that Arsenal have been really good this season and I don’t think they’ll be able to hold them for the full 90 minutes. Given Arsenal’s defensive strengths too in only conceding 9 times this season it’s difficult to see West Brom breaking through after only scoring 10 goals themselves this season. This will be a tight one but one that Arsenall should sneak after 90 minutes.
Predicted score: Arsenal 1-0
Best Bet: Arsenal to win to Nil at $2.57 (75%)
Next Best: Half-Time/Full-Time – Draw/Arsenal at $4.33
Manchester City ($1.7) versus Liverpool ($5), Draw ($3.9)
A loss to Crystal Palace was a poor result for Liverpool who had been starting to look a better side under Klopp and now they face a tough test in a trip to Manchester City and the league leaders. The injury crisis for Manchester City keeps growing though with Bony a likely absentee which could see Sterling lead the line against his old side. Sterling’s first game against his old side should generate plenty of interest given the way in which he left Liverpool but it won’t be as interesting as what the reverse fixture will be. I think Liverpool will be able to bounce back and play better than what they did against Palace and I think they’ll setup better against City than Palace. Whilst they may play better in this one I’d still expect City to get the points here. Defensively I can’t see Liverpool holding back City’s attack either, even if Aguero remains in doubt and Bony misses through injury. The likes of Toure, De Bruyne, and Sterling are more than capable of generating a winning score.
Predicted score: Manchester City 2-1
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals at $1.71 (80%)
Next Best: Manchester City to win at $1.7
Tottenham ($1.57) versus West Ham ($6), Draw ($4)
The 2nd of 3 London derbies for Tottenham as they prepare to face West Ham this week. They were a little unlucky to not beat Arsenal away last time out as they certainly outplayed their rivals for large portions of the match. West Ham won’t be easy though as they’ve shown plenty with some big wins over big clubs and they’ll see Tottenham as another one they’d like to add to that list. They have a good recent record over Spurs too winning 3 of the last 5 meetings however there is something a lot different about this Tottenham side this year that past history should have little influence on the outcome in this one. Tottenham have only conceded 10 times this season compared to 17 at the same point last season. That new found confidence in defence has been the backbone to their success this season in only losing the 1 game. Where they have struggled a little is up front in attack but with Harry Kane finding form lately with 6 goals in his last 4 games in all competitions they could will be full of confidence ahead of this one. I’m certainly not trying to doubt West Ham but they will be without one of their star players in Dimitri Payet who leads the club with 5 goals and 3 assists. I think they’ll miss his creative influence which I have no doubt would have given some extra trouble to Tottenham’s defence.
Predicted score: Tottenham 2-0
Best Bet: Tottenham to win at $1.57 (80%)
Next Best: Both Teams to score – No at $2.1