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We look to continue our good run with our Premier League selections and, complete with the odds from your club’s betting service, take a glance at the big matches at both ends of the Premier League this weekend…
WEST HAM v LIVERPOOL
Having beaten them 3-0 at Anfield in August, West Ham (3.60) seek to do the double on Liverpool (2.05) for the first time since the 1962/63 season.
The injury-hit Hammers are also gunning for a third win in four meetings, a feat not achieved since 1965.
West Ham took four points from a possible six last weekend, having drawn 1-1 at bottom-of-the-table Aston Villa and then coming from behind to beat Southampton 2-1.
They have shown plenty of resilience under Slaven Bilic, but have drawn six of their last eight Premier League games and have netted just six goals in those eight games.
That said, they are just two points behind fifth-placed Crystal Palace and have already played Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool away from home (losing just one of those games).
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool team can take apart anyone on their day, but they are eminently beatable when Daniel Sturridge is unavailable.
Yet their defence needs an overhaul and they have proved vulnerable on the road, as recent defeats at Newcastle and Watford has underlined.
The Hammers have had problems winning at the Boleyn Ground this term but they may be value to record just a fourth win in 24 against the Reds, although we would not want to risk the mortgage on it. We also feel there will be a few goals bucking the trend of recent games involving West Ham. [SM]
VERDICT: WEST HAM 3 LIVERPOOL 1 @ 34.00
BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 1.91
ARSENAL v NEWCASTLE
It’s fair to say that Arsenal (1.29) have been dominant over Newcastle (10.00) in recent years. The Gunners have won all of the last eight meetings between the two clubs and haven’t lost against The Magpies since 2010.
That said, their meeting in February 2011 is the one that sticks in the head of most neutrals. Arsenal famously threw away a four goal lead, with the game eventually ending 4-4 after a late Cheick Tiote leveller.
Newcastle will draw on their last trip to North London as inspiration for this one. Steve McClaren’s men shocked everyone after a late Ayoze Perez gave them a vital win away at Tottenham in early December.
The Gunners have won by more than a single goal on each of the last three meetings between the sides at The Emirates and we expect that run to continue at the weekend.
We see nothing other than a comfortable home win here. [CC]
VERDICT: ARSENAL 3 NEWCASTLE 0 @ 8.00
BEST BET: HT/FT = ARSENAL/ARSENAL @ 1.80
LEICESTER v BOURNEMOUTH
Even Claudio Ranieri couldn’t have forecast such a start to his managerial spell at the King Power Stadium.
Leicester (1.95) have surprised everyone this season, with Ranieri shaking off the ‘tinkerman’ title given to him during his previous stint in England by building a solid and stable squad.
Bournemouth (3.75) endured a tough start to the season, and found themselves lingering near the foot of the table by late November.
However, an amazing comeback saw them get a point against Everton on November 28, before back-to-back wins against Chelsea and Manchester United in early December saw them climb the table.
Eddie Howe’s men were denied victory in the reverse fixture back in August, when Jamie Vardy’s late penalty rescued a point for Leicester.
However, the Foxes are now flying high, and have a very good record against Saturday’s opponents in recent years. Leicester have won four of the last five meetings and we expect them to get the job done again on Saturday. Everything points to a home win here. [CC]
VERDICT: LEICESTER 3 BOURNEMOUTH 1 @ 15.00
BEST BET: LEICESTER TO WIN @ 1.95
MAN UTD v SWANSEA
Louis van Gaal would probably wish for an easier side to face than Swansea (6.50), who are scrapping for their top-flight status and who gained a solid point in a 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace on Monday.
The Swans have won four of the last five meetings with Manchester United (1.50), including the last three. They also won their last two trips to Old Trafford by 21 scorelines.
United have won just eight of their last 19 League games and seek their first win in seven – a barren run that sees van Gaal as favourite to be the next manager to get the sack.
Three successive defeats against lesser lights Bournemouth, Norwich and Stoke (before a 0-0 draw with Chelsea stopped the rot) has not helped his cause, but they showed plenty of signs that they can turn the corner with a more adventurous attacking display against the Blues on Monday.
Swansea are unbeaten in their last three, having earned a point against both West Ham and Crystal Palace, with a 1-0 victory over West Brom sandwiched in between.
However, their situation in perilous, as they sit just two points off the drop zone and have won away from home just once – at cast-adrift Aston Villa.
The lack of goals has been a major problem for Swansea, which is surprising since they have a decent marksman in Bafatimbi Gomis.
Scoring goals is a percentage game, yet his lack of strikes on goal compared to last term is a major reason why Swansea are not higher up the table. The 30-year-old has suffered an alarming dip in form and until his confidence returns, we see Swansea continuing to spiral. [SM]
VERDICT: MAN UTD 2 SWANSEA 0 @ 6.00
BEST BET: MAN UTD TO WIN @ 1.50
NORWICH v SOUTHAMPTON
Southampton (2.20) were convincing in their 3-0 win over Norwich (3.30) earlier this season and have only lost one of the last 10 meetings between the two sides.
However, the Saints have had a below par campaign so far. Ronald Koeman will be extremely concerned by his side’s lack of consistency, and will be looking for much more from the likes of Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane in the second half of the season.
There is no doubt that Norwich boss Alex Neil will be worried by his team’s lack of goals this season. The Canaries are among the lowest scorers in the league and haven’t been helped by the lack of stability up front. In truth, all four of the strikers at the club are full of quality and running, but none of Lewis Grabban, Cameron Jerome, Kyle Lafferty or Diuemerci Mbokani have the required level of composure or cutting edge in front of goal.
That said, each of the previous two meetings between the sides have ended with more than two goals being scored and we expect much of the same on Saturday. [CC]
VERDICT: NORWICH 1 SOTON 2 @ 9.00
BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 2.15
SUNDERLAND v ASTON VILLA
Enjoy it while it lasts. Both Sunderland (2.30) and Aston Villa (3.10) are mired in a relegation dog-fight and, with a lack of quality in each squad, it is hard to see either of them escaping the drop to the Championship.
Villa have not won since opening day at Bournemouth, yet if ever there is a team that Villa like to face, it is Sunderland.
The Black Cats have not beaten Villa in their last nine meetings and have lost the last three meetings at the Stadium of Light. Indeed, they have won just two of the last 13 meetings at home.
This fixture can also get a little feisty, with 17 yellow cards and one red shown in the last four meetings. There have been seven dismissals in the last 15 meetings.
Heading into Wednesday’s fixture with Liverpool, Sunderland had lost their last four Premier League games and six of their last eight. With high-flying Tottenham next on the fixture list, a win over the Villains looks imperative as confidence is already at a low ebb.
Villa have shown signs of life in the last couple of outings, holding Newcastle and West Ham to 1-1 draws and creating a few notable chances in a 2-0 defeat at Norwich. The lack of goals in an ongoing theme, although Jordan Ayew can be a handful and Jack Grealish continues to look Villa’s most saleable asset.
Still, we see Sam Allardyce working his magic and Sunderland should have enough to break their hoodoo and earn a welcome win. [SM]
VERDICT: SUNDERLAND 2 ASTON VILLA 0 @ 10.00
BEST BET: SUNDERLAND TO WIN @ 2.30
WEST BROM v STOKE
Those who read our Best Bets for the New Year column will have noted that we tipped Stoke at a ridiculous 2-1 to finish in the top half of the table. They promptly won at Everton.
And there are plenty of reasons for opposing West Brom (2.63), not least a solid trend that says the Baggies will have to make a little history if they are to thwart the Stoke (2.75) bandwagon.
For West Brom, who have won the last two meetings with the Potters, have never won three consecutive meetings with their Midlands rivals, dating back to 1901.
While Tony Pulis’s side managed to beat Newcastle thanks to a goalkeeping blunder by their rookie keeper on Monday, they have only won back-to-back games once this season, and can easily be sucked into a relegation battle.
Stoke appear to be on top form at present, gaining six points from their Christmas games with wins over Manchester United and Everton.
The triumvirate of Bojan, Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic have proven some of the bargain buys of the season and their link-up play, at times, has been mesmeric. You would certainly pay to watch Mark Hughes’s hugely entertaining side.
Stoke have lost just one of their last eight trips to the Hawthorns and before last season’s 1-0 reverse, had won on their previous five visits.
West Brom’s best hope is to sit back and try to catch the Potters on the break. It may not make for a hugely enjoyable game and while our heads tell us an away win looks the most likely outcome, we will side with a draw. [SM]
VERDICT: WEST BROM 1 STOKE 1 @ 6.00
BEST BET: STOKE OR DRAW @ 1.44
WATFORD v MAN CITY
Even the most optimistic Watford (4.75) fan wouldn’t have expected Quique Sanchez Flores to have had such an impact since taking over at Vicarage Road in the summer.
The Hornets have been the surprise package in the Premier League this season, and now look near certainties to avoid relegation.
In truth, Watford don’t have the greatest record against the so called ‘bigger’ teams in the league, losing to both Manchester United and Arsenal at Vicarage Road already this season.
Manchester City (1.67) have really struggled for consistency this season, particularly away from home. Demoralising losses at Tottenham (1-4) and Stoke (0-2) have particularly hindered Manuel Pellegrini side’s form and confidence so far this season.
That said, City do have a wonderful record against Watford, winning the last three meetings and going without defeat since 1989.
We are going for an away win here. [CC]
VERDICT: WATFORD 1 MAN CITY 2 @ 8.00
BEST BET: MAN CITY TO WIN @ 1.67
CRYSTAL PALACE v CHELSEA
When Crystal Palace (3.60) won at Stamford Bridge back in August, many expected the result to be one of the shocks of the season.
However, nobody expected Chelsea (2.05) to be at the wrong end of the league standings come January after losing more games already this season than in the whole of last year’s campaign.
Yohan Cabaye arrived at Selhurst Park over the summer, and the club record fee Palace paid to PSG is now looking like a real bargain. The French international has been among the best players in the Premier League so far this season, offering goals and assists on a regular basis.
Chelsea have really suffered at the back this season, while this young Palace team look more than capable going forward. Thus we fancy goals at Selhurst Park on Sunday.
We are going for a scoring draw here. [CC]
VERDICT: PALACE 1 CHELSEA 1 @ 6.00
BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 1.91
EVERTON v TOTTENHAM
Tottenham (2.60) have a fair recent record against Everton (2.63), having won three of the last six meetings and drawing the other three.
It is their best run over the Toffeemen since going 11 unbeaten between 1973/79.
However, last season’s 1-0 win at Goodison Park was their first in eight visits and Everton look a side full of goals at present, with Romelu Lukaku one of the hottest strikers in Europe.
Everton were a little unfortunate to lose 4-3 at home to Stoke on Monday, although, as any referee will tell you, Mark Clattenburg’s decision to award a late penalty to Stoke was the correct decision, regardless of what Everton fans and their manager, Roberto Martinez, may think.
Tottenham were very fortunate to win at Watford on Monday, their third successive league win, which lifted them to third in the table, four points behind leaders Arsenal. Their late winner was clearly offside, and it is not the first time Spurs have had officiating good fortune go their way.
Tottenham also have goals in them, although we do wonder where they will come from should Harry Kane pick up an injury in a long season.
Everton have no failed to win any of their last three games at home, but we think they are capable of halting Tottenham’s good run and they will be carrying our money. [SM]
VERDICT: EVERTON 3 TOTTENHAM 1 @ 19.00
BEST BET: EVERTON TO WIN @ 2.63
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