WEEKEND BETTING PREVIEW – MCB’s Premier League Guide

We managed to get five out of 10 best bests over the line last week with our Premier League predictions – but we did nail a juicy 10/1 correct score winner.

Complete with the odds from your club’s betting service, we take a glance at all the games in England’s top flight for this weekend.

Remember, all of the links below are directed to a generic MyClubBetting site. Once you login, you will be redirected to the club betting site that you are registered to.

As always, be sure to share your opinions with us over on the @MyClubBetting twitter page…

If you are not affiliated to a club and wish to take advantage of our great offers or simply have a bet, you can sign up to our Bet4Causes site, where 20% of the bookmaker’s net revenue goes to our chosen charities.

Wenger 1.jpg

ARSENAL v HULL CITY

Saturday, 12.30pm

Back-to-back Premier League defeats to Watford and leaders Chelsea have put Arsenal (2/7) 12 points behind the Blues, and despite Liverpool’s awful run of form, they are only a point behind the Gunners in the race for fourth place.

There used to be a time when teams actually wanted to win the title, rather than seeing fourth or fifth place as a triumph and we are reminded that fourth place is simply third of the losers. With Arsene Wenger out of contract in the summer, there could be a change at the top, but the probability (in our estimation at least) is that he has already told the board that he will walk away as their most successful manager in the club’s history.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has been touted as the next man in, but with all the speculation, you can see things starting to unravel. This season is beginning to look like another opportunity missed.
Hull (10/1) have beaten Bournemouth, Manchester United and Liverpool in recent weeks, but remain in the bottom three, having won just once on the road this term. They have only ever beaten Arsenal once and have failed to score at the Emirates in four of their last six visits. This should be a routine win for the Gunners, but with plenty going on behind the scenes, this may spill over onto the pitch, because we know how fragile the psyche of a pampered modern-day pro can be, don’t we?

VERDICT: ARSENAL 3 HULL CITY 0 @ 13/2

BEST BET: HT/FT = ARSENAL/ARSENAL @ 4/5

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MANCHESTER UNITED v WATFORD

Saturday, 3pm

Whilst they have only lost once at Old Trafford in the League, Manchester United (1/4) are off the pace because they have drawn half of their 12 games on their own patch. Even the likes of Burnley and West Brom have picked up more than United’s 21 home points. Watford (11/1) have been toddling along quite nicely and are in the top half of the table, with probably three wins from their last 14 games assuring them of their place in the top flight for next season. They have won three games on the road but have lost their last five at Old Trafford, and four of those defeats were by margins of two goals or more. They are, however, seeking to do the double on Jose Mourinho’s men, having turned them over 3-1 at Vicarage Road in September. Three wins in the last 20 meetings says the odds are against them historically, but their price is ridiculous given that they won at Arsenal two weeks ago and followed up with a home win against Burnley. We see this being a bit of a struggle for United but Mourinho’s side should come through, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic perhaps again providing hope to old men everywhere.

VERDICT: MANCHESTER UNITED 2 WATFORD 0 @ 9/2

BEST BET: WATFORD +3 GOALS @ 4/9

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MIDDLESBROUGH v EVERTON

Saturday, 3pm

Middlesbrough (11/4) are just a point above the relegation zone in a compact bottom half where six teams are separated by just two points. They have the better goal difference than the teams below them but have managed to win the fewest games in the Premier League (4). However, nine draws from 24 games keeps them above the waterline for now.

It is obvious what their biggest issue is – scoring goals. They have netted just 19 times. On the flip side, only Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United have conceded fewer than Boro’s 27 this season, so keeping it tight and nicking the odd goal may be enough to see them remain in the top tier next term.

Everton (11/10) are only six points behind Merseyside rivals Liverpool, who sit fifth, so the prospect of European football is not fanciful and their away form is solid enough, with four wins and three draws from 12. The Toffeemen have won the last four encounters and seek an unprecedented fifth successive win over Boro, who have won just two of the last 15 meetings. We have a sneaky feeling about this one. While they have not posted a victory in the top flight since the middle of December, they are difficult to break down and Everton struggled to win at Crystal Palace a couple of weeks ago. We’ll take Aitor Karanka’s crew to get a little respite.

VERDICT: MIDDLESBROUGH 2 EVERTON 1 @ 12/1

BEST BET: MIDDLESBROUGH OR DRAW @ 7/10

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STOKE CITY v CRYSTAL PALACE

Saturday, 3pm

Stoke (11/10) are severely tempting at these odds, but it looks like a dog, smells like a dog and would not look out of place if cooked in white sauce at an Asian restaurant. So much as it looks a tempting treat, we tend to ignore such howlers when they bark ‘back me’.

Stoke really should be odds on, not odds against, for their clash with a woeful Crystal Palace (11/4) side who have regressed under Sam Allardyce. The results speak for themselves. Defeats to Arsenal (A), Swansea (H), West Ham (A), Everton (H) and Sunderland (H) has only been brightened by a 2-0 win at Bournemouth since the turn of the year. They have failed to score in four of their last five League outings and were dumped out of the FA Cup, 3-0 at home by Manchester City.

The odds are skewed, perhaps for this reason only: history. Palace have won six of the last seven meetings and drew the other. Stoke have won just one of the last 11 meetings with the Eagles and were thrashed 4-1 at Selhurst Park in September, which seems like a lifetime ago. Palace capitulated at home to Barcelona last week… Wait. We got that wrong. It was Sunderland who led 4-0 at half-time at Selhurst Park, the Black Cats not the Catalan giants, to keep Palace in the bottom three. Stoke had put a nice little run together until beaten by James Morrison’s goal at The Hawthorns last week, securing points against Everton and Manchester United, winning at Sunderland and beating Watford. Their home form has not been bad of late, although Mark Hughes would expect a better return than four wins from 12. They have lost just three times on their own patch, however. Stoke look tremendous value to us. Too good, in fact. Allardyce will expect a reaction and may get it.

VERDICT: STOKE CITY 1 CRYSTAL PALACE 2 @ 12/1

BEST BET: CRYSTAL PALACE OR DRAW @ 8/11

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SUNDERLAND v SOUTHAMPTON

Saturday, 3pm

Sunderland (14/5) could not believe their luck to go in 4-0 up at the break at Selhurst Park last weekend, with on-loan Manchester United striker Adnan Januzaj and Jermain Defoe looking like they had played together forever. Saturday’s win was their first in seven, however, and they remain at the bottom of the table, two points adrift of safety. Sunderland did well to keep Defoe at the club in the transfer window (a nonsense regulation) and his 14 goals (Sunderland have only scored 24) means he alone may be able to keep them up. We still maintain they will fall, but it won’t be the fault of manager David Moyes, either.

Southampton (Evens) stunned us last week losing at home to West Ham, who have a terrible record on the South Coast, despite going a goal up after just 12 minutes. The Saints have reached the League Cup final and that is a distraction. Since beating Liverpool over two legs, they have lost to Arsenal (0-5), Swansea (2-1) and West Ham (1-3). They are seven points off the drop zone but could be just five points in front of Sunderland should they lose this. We don’t expect them to. Six draws in the last 14 meetings says the value play is taking the 12/5 for a stalemate, as Saints do not win here very often (victorious twice in the last 11 trips).

VERDICT: SUNDERLAND 0 SOUTHAMPTON 0 @ 8/1

BEST BET: DRAW AT HT @ 21/10

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WEST HAM UNITED v WEST BROMWICH ALBION

Saturday, 3pm

With a form guide of: WDDWDDD in their last seven meetings at Upton Park, the sensible option would be to take on the Baggies in one shape or form. Except this isn’t Upton Park any longer. This is the London Stadium, which is not a football stadium in our opinion.

No surprise that West Ham (6/5) have struggled to adapt to the cavernous arena, a stark contrast to the tight confines of their former home, which always produced a great atmosphere. Just as Sam Allardy… wait. Perhaps not. They have netted just 1 times at home at a ratio of a goal a game and have leaked 20 – not counting the five than Manchester City put past them in the FA Cup. Had it not been for City’s home drubbings, they would be one of the form teams right now, having won by at least two clear goals against Crystal Palace, Middlesbrough and Southampton. Andy Carroll has been a regular on the scoresheet and the Hammers have climbed to relative safety in ninth, 11 points clear of the drop zone.

Albion (12/5) are five points and a place above the Hammers following their 1-0 win over Stoke and they could be boosted by the return of defender Jonny Evans, who has been slow to recover from a calf injury. James Morrison’s winner against Stoke was his 28th in the Premier League for the Baggies and he will cause an oft-shaky West Ham defence a few problems.

West Brom have won three of their 12 road games but have drawn five others, so we would side with them to take at least a point at (23/10). It would be no surprise should they steal all three, however. The 56,980-odd fans will still turn out in force each week; one thing about West Ham – they enjoy fantastic and loyal support.

VERDICT: WEST HAM 2 WEST BROM 3 @ 40/1

BEST BET: WEST BROM OR DRAW @ 8/13

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LIVERPOOL v TOTTENHAM

Saturday, 5.30pm

Neither team are our favourites. We’d like both to lose each week if we could. A draw would be our happiest outcome, but we will still be miserable that these two teams would each pick up a point. Liverpool (5/4) stopped the rot with a home draw against champions-elect Chelsea and then promptly fell 2-0 at Hull last week. Yet they are still only a point behind fourth-placed Arsenal, so the Champions League is still a possibility, even if the title is slipping out of sight fast.
Tottenham (12/5) are still very much in with a shout of winning the Premier League. That is a horrible sentence to write and I will have to now take a few days off sick to get over it.

There was a time when you could trust Spurs not to win at Anfield. In fact they have won three of their last 30 competitive games there since 1986, the last coming in November 2011.

There is every chance that they could take the points, given Liverpool’s recent form which has seen them win once in the last 10 competitive fixtures – a 1-0 FA Cup replay at Plymouth. Of Division Four (as we know it). They have not won at home in their last five, since beating Manchester City 1-0 on New Year’s Eve. And while we are enjoying ourselves, they should jolly well let Daniel Sturridge join West Ham, where he will be appreciated.

Tottenham have been below-par in recent weeks, too, failing to win Manchester City and Sunderland, whilst scraping past Wycombe in the FA Cup and with a penalty against Middlesbrough last weekend.

Not a fixture we care too much about. It will have top-four implications, but unless you win the title, who wants to be first, second or third losers? Yawn.

VERDICT: LIVERPOOL 1 TOTTENHAM 1 @ 5/1

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 7/10

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BURNLEY v CHELSEA

Sunday, 1.30pm

This was always a good fixture until real football stopped. That was around the mid-Eighties in our opinion, when games in the middle of February were either frozen off or played on either bogs or sand-lots. Yes, we remember the Baseball Ground, we hanker for Stamford Bridge’s quagmires. We liked shirts without advertising, proper football, real tackles, and mesmeric wingers who could ghost past full-backs on any surface, skimpy shorts [think you had better stop there – ED].

Then the TV billions brought in the sharks who could afford to buy clubs and take advantage of the endless supply of revenue. ‘Star’ foreign players were bought. The hype was swallowed by a gullible generation who would never have been allowed out of their parents’ sight, never mind experience the pleasure of kicking a ball against a wall hour after hour. We know the truth. The Premier League is bang average, full of ordinary players ready to fall over at every opportunity in the hope of conning a match official. Over-paid, lacking moral fibre, each possessing an agent. Our distain for the exemplifiers of the ‘me-first’ generation runs deep.

Burnley are refreshingly holding their own in the Premier League – an honest club, great fans and a salt-of-the-earth manager in Sean Dyche. He tells it like it is. And we love him for that.

Burnley have not beaten Chelsea since 1973. We don’t see that trend ending, despite their exceptional home form. The lumps come via gold-plated baseball bats these days. Pity.
And don’t get us started on selfie-sticks. Just don’t.

VERDICT: BURNLEY 1 CHELSEA 3 @ 11/1

BEST BET: CHELSEA WIN AND BOTH TEAMS SCORE @ 12/5

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SWANSEA CITY v LEICESTER CITY

Sunday, 4pm

We never quite understood why Swansea (7/5) ditched three good managers in the space of two years. Brendan Rodgers, Michael Laudrup and Garry Monk all had an expansive style and utilising what flair players they had with great effect. Things have become distinctly forgettable in South Wales since their departure. The Swans have had four different managers in one capacity or another since Monk departed in December 2015 and Paul Clement has a job on is hands keeping them in the top tier.

Leicester (21/10) are suffering a torrid time. They scraped past Derby in the FA Cup fourth round in midweek, needing extra time to do so, but Claudio Ranieri’s humiliation was almost complete when the chairman of the Premier League champions, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha (remember this name when playing Scrabble), flew in from Thailand to offer his public backing. Hopefully they won’t be the first champions to be relegated the following season – we hope that accomplishment will befall Tottenham or Liverpool – but it is a distinct possibility, as the Foxes sit just a point above the relegation zone, with Swansea a place below and on the same number of points.

Leicester have failed to win away from home this season and have picked up just three points from their 12 road games. This with a player like Jamie Vardy in their team. How does this happen?

Swansea have looked more organised and cohesive in the last couple of weeks and wins over Southampton and Crystal Palace have boosted morale.

As awful as it seems, we can see Leicester’s troubles increasing here in a clash that has yet to see a draw in the last 10 meetings.

VERDICT: SWANSEA 2 LEICESTER 0 @ 10/1

BEST BET: ONE OR OTHER FAILS TO SCORE @ EVENS

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AFC BOURNEMOUTH v MANCHESTER CITY

Monday, 8pm

Manchester City (4/9) can turn it on whenever it suits them. Usually when they are playing West Ham. Does it have something to do with the fact that their precious millionaires don’t like to get too close to the fans? Intimate grounds can make even Jesus look human. Before those good souls from the… ahem… Christian right who elected Donald Trump get on my case, the Jesus referred to is Gabriel Jesus. Yes, an angel and a saviour! City fans who may have thought Sergio Aguero was the king had better start thinking again. He could be on the way out, with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid the front-runners for his signature.

Jesus, 19, arrived from Palmeiras in Brazil after being signed in the summer. He has scored three goals in four appearances, including a double against Swansea last Sunday and is keeping Aguero out of the side. Though he wears gloves and has ruined his arms with tattoos (a definite no-no for us on both counts), he isn’t a bad player. Time will tell, of course.

Let’s see how he handles the cosy confines of Bournemouth (6/1), whose defence will not doubt be generous again. They shipped six goals at Everton last weekend and have leaked 28 goals in their last nine competitive matches since beating Leicester 1-0 in mid-December. This should be a case of whether or not City’s superstars fancy a trip to the cold South Coast on a Monday night. Their mood will determine how many they will win by.

VERDICT: BOURNEMOUTH 1 MANCHESTER CITY 4 @ 16/1

BEST BET: HT/FT = MAN CITY/MAN CITY @ 4/5


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WEEKEND BETTING PREVIEW – MCB’s Premier League Guide

There were plenty of FA Cup shocks last week – and a few in the Premier League in midweek. Will results be easier to predict this weekend?

Complete with the odds from your club’s betting service, we take a glance at all the games in England’s top flight.

Remember, all of the links below are directed to a generic MyClubBetting site. Once you login, you will be redirected to the club betting site that you are registered to.

As always, be sure to share your opinions with us over on the @MyClubBetting twitter page…

If you are not affiliated to a club and wish to take advantage of our great offers or simply have a bet, you can sign up to our Bet4Causes site, where 20% of the bookmaker’s net revenue goes to our chosen charities.

Chelsea v FC Porto - UEFA Champions League Group Stage - Group G

CHELSEA v ARSENAL

Saturday, 12.30pm

Draws are few and far between when these two meet – just three stalemates in the last 22 in fact – but that’s what we fancy in this one. We are on a run of nine meetings where either one or the other team failed to score, so we can probably go against the grain on that one as well. That should be a bettor’s philosophy – go against the grain, as in the long run, you may find yourself better off. Trusting our own eyes, Chelsea (10/11) looked as though they would settle for a point at Liverpool in midweek and that is what they got. They would have been un-backable to win the title had they not missed a penalty, and as it is, Arsenal (3/1) are still within sight. Yet unless they win, they can kiss any thoughts of a title goodbye. They will just be happy to remain in the top four after losing at home to Watford, who lost at Millwall in the FA Cup last week. This makes Millwall better than Arsenal in our eyes. Cue complaints from the selfie-stick brigade.

VERDICT: CHELSEA 1 ARSENAL 1 @ 11/2

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS SCORE @ 8/11 

Allardyce twat 2.jpg

CRYSTAL PALACE v SUNDERLAND

Saturday 3pm

A Championship fixture masquerading as a Premier League game. In truth, Sunderland (17/4) have been circling the relegation plug-hole for a while and you have to feel just a bit sorry for David Moyes, who started his tenure with very little to work with on the pitch, and found the cupboard was bare off it. It is a gamble selling Patrick van Aanholt to Crystal Palace (4/6) to fund a mini-recruitment drive. Getting full-back Bryan Oviedo and the oft-injured Darron Gibson from Everton was not a bad piece of business, though. They are only five points adrift of safety but while securing a valuable point against Tottenham, Sunderland could have done without fellow strugglers Hull and Palace picking up points in midweek. Palace secured three points for the first time since Sam Allardyce (above) took over when winning 2-0 at slumping Bournemouth. The Black Cats have won on their last two trips to Selhurst Park and the side playing at home has won just one of the last eight meetings. Palace are leaky, Sunderland are capable of snatching a point, but the odds suggest they won’t.

VERDICT: CRYSTAL PALACE 2 SUNDERLAND 1 @ 15/2

BEST BET: HT/FT = DRAW/CRYSTAL PALACE @ 10/3

Eddie HOWE

EVERTON v BOURNEMOUTH

Saturday 3pm

Things have gone from bad to worse for Bournemouth (4/1), with striker Callum Wilson suffering a serious knee injury. The Cherries have shipped three goals in nine of their last 14 games and conceded twice against Watford and Crystal Palace in the two outings, so it is easy to see where the problem lies. This is a critical stage of the season for the likeable Eddie Howe (above) and they have taken a big step back since beating Liverpool 4-3 at the Vitality Stadium. Everton (8/11) were a little fortunate to win 1-0 at Crystal Palace and a 1-1 draw at Stoke in midweek was commendable. Seventh in the table and one home defeat says all we need to know. It won’t be long before the players go on their holidays, as they have little to play for except mid-table jostling, but for now, the form team are a short price for a reason. We’ll take an odd result here, though. Just because.

VERDICT: EVERTON 2 BOURNEMOUTH 2 @ 14/1

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS SCORE @ 8/11

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HULL v LIVERPOOL

Saturday 3pm

It must come as a relief to Jurgen Klopp’s (above) men to play away from Anfield, where Liverpool (4/9) have lost three of their last four in all competitions, a run only halted by a gritty 1-1 draw with Chelsea in midweek. Then again, Hull (13/2) have won two of the last three meetings at home with Liverpool, drawing the other. The last time the Reds won on Humberside was in April 2009 – and that was when Hull had a player sent off with the score at 1-1 (they went on to lose 3-1). Liverpool are out to 16/1 for the title and we don’t think they will get close to Chelsea (who are as big as 3/10 in that market with MCB, when 1/5 elsewhere). Three of Hull’s four wins have come at home and Liverpool have only lost twice on the road. We can see Klopp’s inconsistent side putting on a rare show of strength to grind out a win.

VERDICT: HULL 0 LIVERPOOL 2 @ 11/2

BEST BET: LIVERPOOL TO WIN @ 4/9

Andy Carroll plane.jpg

SOUTHAMPTON v WEST HAM

Saturday 3pm

Somewhere it is written in tablets of stone that West Ham (15/4) shall not win on the South coast. They win at Southampton (3/4) as often as Andy Carroll is fit – or once in a blue moon. In fact, they have not won at St Mary’s since 2000 and those looking for an historical banker bet may wish to consider this. Four wins in 32 trips. That’s the size of it. Southampton have won the last two meetings, but you have to go back to 1998 to see a run of three successive wins against the Hammers. There have been five draws in the last 11 meetings and given their in-and-out form, a point is probably all Slaven Bilic’s men will be able to muster. However, given their 4-0 home drubbing by Manchester City in midweek, we see the Saints edging this.

VERDICT: SOUTHAMPTON 3 WEST HAM 1 @ 14/1

BEST BET: SOUTHAMPTON TO WIN @ 3/4

Everton v Watford - Premier League

WATFORD v BURNLEY

Saturday 3pm

Let’s just say it probably won’t be the first game we see on Match of the Day. Unless it finishes 5-5, but even then we’d bet against it. This game is as fashionable as your local charity shop sale rail. Yet these two sides have one thing in common – they do try and play attractive football. Five of the last seven meetings have been drawn. It is all about survival for these minnows, possibly more so in Watford’s case since they sold Ighalo (above) to some unpronounceable Chinese team you have never heard of. No less than 13 of the last 16 meetings has seen both sides score and that’s almost as good a stat as this one that we’ll give you for nothing: The New England Patriots are the visitors in Sunday’s Super Bowl, so they get to call the coin toss. They have called ‘heads’ every time in the last two seasons. Can you tell we are not too bothered about this game? Good. We aren’t.

VERDICT: WATFORD 3 BURNLEY 2 @ 33/1

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 13/10

MARK HUGHES

WEST BROM v STOKE

Saturday 3pm

Eighth-placed West Brom (5/4) take on nine-placed Stoke (9/4) in a game only a mother could love. West Brom are enjoying a great season under Tony Pulis, while Mark Hughes’ (above) side have been quietly climbing the table without getting too much attention. The Baggies have scored as many goals as Manchester City at home this season, while Stoke’s three wins and three draws from 11 on the road is not too shabby, either. With respective managers who demand discipline, it is no huge surprise that they have shared just one red card between them all season. Neither side is going anywhere, but it is a ‘Derby’, so the intensity should be ramped up a little. Stoke have not won a game in the last four meetings and the last time they went five in a row without getting one over on West Brom was in 1969. A rare home defeat is the call.

VERDICT: WEST BROM 0 STOKE 1 @ 7/1

BEST BET: STOKE TO WIN @ 9/4

Harry Kane

TOTTENHAM v MIDDLESBROUGH

Saturday 5.30pm

The title door was open a jar when Chelsea were held at Liverpool, but as is invariably the case, Tottenham (1/4) fluffed their lines in failing to beat Sunderland, having previously fluked their way past Wycombe in a 4-3 FA Cup thriller – with a goal in the seventh minute of added time. Even our in-house ref, who played 40 minutes in the first half of his Sunday game (because he forgot it was 45 mins) and added it on in the second half, still didn’t play 97-plus minutes. Some of the refereeing in the EPL is bordering on shambolic. We digress. Tottenham still have the most realistic shot of catching Chelsea, even if they have played below-par in the last couple of weeks. At Sunderland they had one shot in the first half but were better after the break, yet they failed to close the nine-point gap. One of Boro’s (11/1) more creative players Gaston Ramirez has a knee injury and with the want-away midfielder seemingly unhappy, you have to wonder what the mood in the camp is, particularly since they are embroiled in a relegation dogfight. They have collected just three points form their last six games and a trip to a Spurs side keen to put matters right won’t be pretty. No doubt Harry Kane (above) will get on the scoresheet if he plays, but we go for the HT/FT Spurs win instead as our best bet.

VERDICT: TOTTENHAM 4 MIDDLESBROUGH 0

BEST BET: HT/FT = TOTTENHAM/TOTTENHAM @ 4/5

aguero

MAN CITY v SWANSEA

Sunday 1.30pm

A touch of normalcy returned to the sky blue half of Manchester in midweek. A trip to West Ham is as great a tonic as seeing near neighbours United held to a goalless draw with Hull. City’s (1/5) goal difference summarily boosted, they welcome a Swansea (12/1) side that have never managed to take a point on any of the last seven trips to City. And the hosts have a bloke called Jesus playing for them now. Life can be a bit cruel sometimes.

VERDICT: MAN CITY 3 SWANSEA 0 @ 6/1

BEST BET: HT/FT = MAN CITY/MAN CITY @ 4/6

Wayne Rooney1

LEICESTER v MAN UTD

Sunday 4pm

They said Leicester (9/2) could never win the title – until they did. They said a title winner could never be relegated the following season… The sad fact is, one player can, indeed make a team. The loss of Ngolo Kante to Chelsea has produced some horrifying results. Leicester simply don’t do the basis well any more. Kante closed space, harried opponents and gave his teammates time. They defended from the front. They can’t even defend at the back, now. It isn’t difficult. It is basic hard work. But when you are paid that much, why work for it? And that’s the problem with Premier League football. Too much money. Too much lethargy. Or that is the simplistic view, in any case. We could go on about how to defend between the lines etc, but sometimes it really is teaching you lot to suck eggs. You’ve got the talking TV heads for that. United (4/6) have been mid-table ordinary but rarely lose here and have failed to score just once in their last 12 visits. Wayne Rooney (above) is always a viable bet to score at any time but we go for Over 2.5 Goals as our best bet.

VERDICT: LEICESTER 0 MAN UTD 3 @ 10/1

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 21/20

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2016/17 PREMIER LEAGUE: THE COMPLETE BETTING GUIDE

Calum Chinchen analyses the 2016/17 Premier League campaign, giving you some top tips and insight along the way!

Defending Champions Leicester City will have to juggle Champions League action with Premier League games, something that will be a million miles from their comfort zone.

It’s fair to say that Leicester have a lack of squad depth at present. Take away their unbelievable commitment and the main reason for the Foxes title success last season was keeping key players fit.

Leicester City v Everton - Barclays Premier League

Riyad Mahrez, N’Golo Kante and Jamie Vardy missed just four Premier League games between them last season, with Mahrez and Vardy sharing a staggering 41 goals along the way.

However, with Kante having already departed, Mahrez reportedly looking for a move and at least an extra six games to be played during the early months – we see it being an uphill battle for Claudio Ranieri’s side, and don’t forecast them finishing inside the top six this season.

Pep Guardiola will manage in the Premier League for the first time this season, after he replaced Manuel Pellegrini as Manchester City boss over the summer.

Guardiola’s new side are the 9/4 favourites in this season’s Premier League winner market, and the Spaniard will be looking to win a league title in his debut season for the third time in his short managerial career.

Despite their disappointing 2015/16 campaign, Guardiola has inherited a hugely talented squad, adding the likes of Nolito and Ilkay Gundogan to that impressive unit since his arrival.

AGUERO

Make no mistakes, Sergio Aguero is still Manchester City’s key man. The Argentine managed an impressive 24 goals in an injury hit last campaign, which saw him miss eight league games. In fact, since arriving in the Premier League, Aguero (above) has only exceeded 30 league appearances in a single season on two occasions.

In our eyes, Guardiola’s side fully deserve their favourites tag, and we see them lifting the famous Premier League trophy come May – particularly if a certain Mr Aguero can stay fit!

Manchester United are the 16/5 second favourites for this season’s Premier League crown.

Winning last season’s FA Cup wasn’t enough to save Louis Van Gaal’s job and he was replaced with the ever controversial Jose Mourinho over the summer.

Mourinho (below) has bought in a wealth of big names since being appointed, and despite paying way over the odds in transfer fees, agent payments and wages, there is no doubting that Zlatan Ibrahimović, Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will improve United’s squad.

Manchester United Officially Introduce Jose Mourinho as Their New Manager

Like his former manager and verbal sparring partner, Guardiola, this campaign will be Ibrahimović’s first in English football. The Swede is a 8/1 shot to be Premier League top scorer, and he has every chance, especially if Wayne Rooney is employed in his favoured number ten position.

Chelsea will be looking to improve on last year’s horror show in the Premier League. During their dismal title defence, the West Londoners managed just 12 wins en-route to a disappointing tenth place finish.

This prompted Roman Abramovich to appoint former Juventus and Italy boss, Antonio Conte as the club’s new manager. During his five years with Juve, Conte (below) managed to win the Serie A title on an impressive three occasions.

CONTE

Conceding goals was Chelsea’s main issue last season. The Blues conceded a staggering 53 goals, and while many may point the finger at their ageing back four, the more knowledgeable football fan would blame the lack of midfield cover.

Nemanja Matic was nothing short of awful during his little playing time last season, with his mistakes and lack of positional sense often placing his back four under massive pressure. This was obviously common knowledge to the new Chelsea manager, who splashed out over £30m on N’Golo Kante from Leicester City not long after his arrival.

There is no doubt in our minds that Chelsea will be back in title contention this season, especially with the signing of Kante – a player who never seems to leave his defence exposed.

While it seems short, their 4/7 price for a top four finish is looking like free money to us.

In our minds, it is a formality that Arsenal will join Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs in next year’s Champions League, however will that be enough to keep their fans happy?

The answer is a resounding…NO!

While Arsenal supporters have every right to feel aggrieved at not winning a Premier League title for over 10 years, they should remember that it could be a lot worse. Let’s not forget, the Gunners have qualified for the Champions League in each of the last 18 seasons and were FA Cup winners in two of the last three years.

GIROUD

Olivier Giroud (above) is a fine centre forward and there is no doubting his obvious qualities, however he seems to struggle when playing as the lone forward. Giroud prefers to operate alongside a faster, more goal driven front man, which was evident at Euro 2016, where his link-up play with Antoine Griezmann set pulses racing.

However, if Arsene Wenger is going to continue with the same system as in recent years, then Giroud just isn’t the man for the job. In our mind, Wenger either needs to play Alexis Sanchez beside the Frenchman in a 4-4-2 system, or replace him for a more complete and dynamic forward.

The central defensive position has also been a problem for the Gunners, with Laurent Koscielny in real need of a new partner. Per Mertesacker is a leader with great positioning, however he is far too slow for the Premier League these days, and as for Gabriel, he is simply nowhere near good enough.

Granit Xhaka arrived for big money in the summer, and like Kante at Chelsea, we expect his combative style to provide some well needed protection for the Arsenal back four.

SANCHEZ OZIL

There is no doubting that any side containing Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez (above) should be challenging for the title, but until Arsenal address their issues at centre back and centre forward, they will just have to settle for a top four spot.

Liverpool were arguably the most inconsistent side in the Premier League last season.

Despite some fine away victories against the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, the Mersysiders eventually finished in eighth position after losing 12 games and conceding 50 goals in the Premier League.

With Christian Benteke looking almost certain to leave, and Daniel Sturridge’s constant injury battles, there is no doubting that Jürgen Klopp (below) needs to invest in a top striker if his side are going to challenge for Champions League football this season.

Stoke City v Liverpool - Capital One Cup - Semi Final - First Leg - Britannia Stadium

Liverpool are a 6/4 shot to finish in the top four, and unless consistency levels are increased, we don’t see Champions League qualification being likely.

Tottenham fans will still be reeling after last season’s final game. Mauricio Pochettino’s men were thrashed at already relegated Newcastle – a result that caused them to fall below their bitter rivals Arsenal for yet another season.

Despite his dire Euro 2016 performances, we still fancy Harry Kane to have a successful season at White Hart Lane. Kane (below) is the heartbeat of the current Tottenham side, and his link up play with the likes of Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli always seems to result in clear goal scoring opportunities. Considering Sergio Aguero’s recent injury troubles, Kane’s top scorer price of 7/1 looks like real value.

SOCCER: FEB 14 Premier League - Tottenham Hotspur at Manchester City

When it comes to Tottenham, we just feel as though they missed their chance of success last season. With their Arsenal curse still in place and the likes of Man United and Chelsea adding real quality, we see Spurs struggling for a Champions League qualification spot, and 11/10 for a top four finish looks far from enticing to us.

If anyone is going to challenge the top six this season, then we see it being either Everton or West Ham.

Ronald Koeman made the switch to Goodison Park over the summer, and there is no doubting his managerial capabilities.

Despite a disappointing Euro 2016 campaign, Romelu Lukaku is still vital for the Toffees, and they will need to keep hold of him if they are going to challenge for a European spot.

John Stones looks certain to join Manchester City for a mind blowing fee, and while that won’t bother too many Evertonians, getting an adequate replacement is still going to be vital.

Slaven Bilic has worked wonders since taking over at West Ham, guiding the club to an impressive seventh place finish last season. Bilic hasn’t rested on his laurels since, and has arguably done the best business of any Premier League manager so far this summer.

Havard Nordtveit and Sofiane Feghouli both arrived on free transfers, while Gokhan Tore was bought to the club on an initial season long loan deal.

PAYET

It also looks like Dimitri Payet (above) will be staying at the club, which will delight Hammers fans, particularly after his wonderful Euro 2016 campaign.

Southampton, Stoke and Crystal Palace all look near certainties for a mid-table finish. While all three sides have far too much depth to be considered for relegation, each of the clubs seem to lack the quality required for European qualification.

In terms of the newly promoted sides, Middlesbrough look the most equipped to fight relegation.

Manager Aitor Karanka (below) has worked wonders in the transfer window, adding Alvaro Negredo, Victor Valdes and Antonio Barragan to a squad that in our minds, was already ready for the Premier League.

KARANKA

Hull and Burley were also promoted last season, but we see their fight against relegation being far more difficult.

In truth, neither club have added much Premier League quality to their already paper thin squads, and it would surprise if these two sides were playing in the second tier again next season.

Bournemouth are a side that worry us this season. The Cherries are 16/5 to be relegated from the Premier League, which seems like value, particularly when you mention these fatal three words – second season syndrome.

Eddie Howe (below) may have spent big in the summer, but he has failed to bring in anyone with real Premier League experience. Brad Smith and Jordan Ibe both arrived from Liverpool, however, the two men have less than 50 top flight appearances between them.

HOWE

Matt Ritchie was Bournemouth’s key man last season, however he departed for Newcastle over the summer.

Watford, West Brom and Swansea all had disappointing campaigns last year, and all three sides will need to improve if they are going to avoid relegation and climb the Premier League table.

Sunderland have become the masters of last minute relegation survival over the last few years, with Gus Poyet, Dick Advocaat and Sam Allardyce all rescuing the Black Cats in the previous three campaigns.

As you all will know, Allardyce departed the Stadium of Light to take the England job a few weeks ago, with David Moyes being appointed as his replacement. Moyes will undoubtedly be looking to settle some scores after a wretched spell at Manchester United and if his new side manage to start well, then there is absolutely no reason why they can’t reach mid-table security.

That said, the jury is out on whether Sunderland can avoid another relegation scrap if they are in trouble come May.

OUR SELECTIONS

WINNER: MAN CITY @ 9/4

TOP SCORER: HARRY KANE @ 7/1

RELEGATION: BOURNEMOUTH @ 16/5

As always, be sure to share your views and opinions with us over on the @MyClubBetting Twitter page.

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WEEKEND BETTING GUIDE: 5 PREMIER LEAGUE TIPS

We hope you are enjoying your new & improved MyClubBetting service. Check it out! And if your club or team has not yet taken advantage, it is time you did.

Get one – it’s completely FREE! Take a look at myclubbetting.com and sign up your club at signup.myclubbetting.com – see the great benefits your club can receive, such as 20% cash back and free kit and promotional material!

Complete with the odds from your club’s betting service, we give you our five best bets of the Premier League weekend…

ARSENAL v WATFORD

There is absolutely no doubting that Arsenal (1.36) need a win at the Emirates on Saturday if they are going to stay in the title race. Despite having a game in hand, Arsene Wenger’s men come into this clash eleven points behind leaders Leicester. However, the Gunners will be buoyed after a dominant 2-0 win at Goodison Park last time out.

Watford (9.00) shocked everyone with a win at the Emirates in the FA Cup quarter final just three weeks ago. Goals from Odion Ighalo and Adlene Guedioura gave the Hornets a memorable 2-1 victory, allowing them to progress to Wembley for a semi-final clash with Crystal Palace.

Alex Iwobi has made the headlines in recent weeks. Iwobi (below) is the nephew of former Bolton Wanderers trickster Jay-Jay Okocha and after holding his own against Barcelona in the always daunting Camp Nou a fortnight ago, he then scored on his full Premier League debut against Everton just three days later.

IWOBI

With the form of Theo Walcott and the injury record of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain both coming under serious scrutiny of late, it would surprise nobody if the Nigerian international went on to cement a place in the Gunners starting eleven in the near future.

Watford’s recent away Premier League record will be of great concern to Quique Sanchez Flores. The Hornets haven’t won a single league game on the road in 2016, losing four, and drawing one of their five away games since the turn of the year.

Goals are usually on the agenda in games at the Emirates. 11 goals have been scored in the last five games at the stadium, with three of the last five Premier League ties ending with more than two goals.

It is also worth noting that neither of this season’s meetings between Arsenal and Watford have ended with less than three goals being scored.

Everything points to high scoring encounter at the Emirates.

VERDICT: ARSENAL 3 WATFORD 1 @ 11.00

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 1.70

BOURNEMOUTH v MAN CITY

Eddie Howe will be delighted with his side’s recent form. Prior to their defeat at White Hart Lane last time out, Bournemouth (3.60) had recorded three straight wins to all but secure their Premier League status for next season.

Manchester City (2.05) are really struggling for league form. Despite winning the League Cup and advancing the quarter-finals of the Champions League, Manuel Pellegrini’s men have won just one of their last six Premier League games, losing four times during that period.

When Benik Afobe, Juan Iturbe and Lewis Grabban arrived at Bournemouth in the January transfer window, many expected Josh King to lose his place in the starting eleven. However, the new arrivals have had a wonderful effect on King, whose form has gone from strength to strength since January. The former Manchester United and Blackburn forward has found the net at crucial times this season, including recent strikes against relegation rivals Swansea and Newcastle.

Yaya Toure during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City

Yaya Toure’s work rate and form has come under real question this season. While the big Ivorian has netted six league goals during the campaign, he has only managed to make five assists, which is far from impressive when you consider that he is in charge of all of City’s set pieces. Being caught too far up the field or out of position is also something that Toure (above) has been guilty of during this campaign. The former Barcelona man often leaves his midfield partner (whether it is Fernando or Fernandinho) exposed, allowing sides to catch City on the counter attack with great regularity and effect.

Despite recent form, we see this as an ideal chance for Man City to get back on track, particularly when you consider Bournemouth’s potential lack of focus after becoming almost certainties to avoid relegation.

We are going for an away win here.

VERDICT: BOURNEMOUTH 1 MAN CITY 2 @ 8.50

BEST BET: MAN CITY TO WIN @ 2.05

STOKE v SWANSEA

Stoke (2.15) are in a rich vein of form. The Potters have taken 13 points from their last six games, winning four times in the process. Mark Hughes will be hoping that his side can continue their run and secure a top 10 finish, with Stoke currently seven points clear of West Brom, who are occupying eleventh position.

In their last Premier League outing, Swansea (3.60) got a vital win 1-0 over Aston Villa to move ten points clear of the relegation zone. That victory was the Swans’ third from their last four league games, and while they are far from safe in their relegation battle, they are now in a far better position that they were when Garry Monk left the club.

Jack Butland has been Stoke’s best player this season, however his injury while on international duty with England has ruled him out for the rest of the season. That means Mark Hughes will have to call-on veteran keeper Shay Given for the remainder of the campaign. The Premier League stalwart joined Stoke in the summer as back-up to the talented Butland, and should make his first Premier League appearance for the Potters on Saturday.

Football - Barclays Premier League - Aston Villa v Swansea

Gylfi Sigurdsson (above) is in fine goal scoring form of late. The attacking midfielder has taken his Premier League tally to nine for the season with recent goals against Norwich and Newcastle, making him the Swans top scorer, ahead of all three of the club’s strikers.

Stoke have a solid recent record against Saturday’s opponents, losing just one of the last five meetings between the clubs. The Potters have also beaten Swansea in three of their last four clashes at the Britannia Stadium.

We can’t see past a home win here.

VERDICT: STOKE 2 SWANSEA 0 @ 9.00

BEST BET: STOKE TO WIN @ 2.15

LIVERPOOL v TOTTENHAM

Jürgen Klopp will still be reeling after the last round of Premier League fixtures. Liverpool (2.50) surrendered a two goal lead away at Southampton, eventually losing 3-2 after a second half capitulation.

One positive point from the game, was the performance of Daniel Sturridge. The striker appeared to be back to full fitness at St Marys, looking a threat throughout – calmly curling home in the first half to put his side 2-0 up.

Tottenham (2.88) are five points behind Leicester, therefore they cannot afford to lose this one. Mauricio Pochettino’s men won comfortably at home to Bournemouth last time out, however, Tottenham have lost two of their last three away games in all competitions.

Harry Kane is the clear favourite to be this season’s top scorer in the Premier League, but as we have seen in recent weeks, there is far more to his game than simply poaching. Kane (below) is the complete forward, who has very few weaknesses. This was particularly evident during his performance for England in Berlin last weekend. Kane’s hold-up play and energy caused the German defence all sorts of problem, while the neat turn and finish for his goal left jaws dropping.

KANE

These two sides are separated by a staggering 17 Premier League points, with Tottenham currently seven places higher than Saturday’s opponents. However, it is Liverpool who have the far better record in this fixture over the years. The Mersysiders haven’t lost to Tottenham in any of their last six meetings, winning five, drawing one and remarkably, scoring 18 times against the North Londoners during that period.

While we aren’t totally convinced by Liverpool, we just feel that the away side are far too short for this one, particularly when you consider that Tottenham haven’t won at Anfield since 2011.

VERDICT: LIVERPOOL 2 TOTTENHAM 1 @ 9.50

BEST BET: LIVERPOOL – DRAW NO BET @ 1.75

MAN UNITED v EVERTON

In their last Premier League outing, Manchester United (2.00) got a vital 1-0 win at the Etihad against bitter local rivals, Manchester City. That Manchester derby victory pushed Louis Van Gaal’s men to within one point of the Champions League qualification places, which is vital for the Red Devils, as their exit from both European competitions now means league qualification is the only way of them reaching next year’s Champions League competition.

Despite reaching the FA Cup semi-finals, Everton (3.80) have had a poor season under Roberto Martinez. The Toffees are languishing in the bottom half of the table after winning only nine of their 29 league games so far.

Marcus Rashford has wasted no time in making himself a hero among the Man United faithful. The 18 year-old striker gave Martin Demichelis a torrid time against Manchester City last weekend, and his winner against United’s bitter rivals was more than deserved after his hard-working display. Since making his debut just a month ago, Rashford (below) has netted on five occasions, including last weekend’s derby strike and his impressive brace against Arsenal.

RASHFORD

Despite their struggles, Manchester United have one of the most impressive away records in the Premier League this season – taking 28 points from 14 games at Old Trafford so far.

That said, Everton have done well on the road, with their defeat at the Emirates being the only blotch on their 2015/16 away Premier League record.

Goals are usually on the agenda when these sides meet, with Everton and Man United sharing an impressive 11 goals during their last 4 clashes.

It is also worth noting that the Toffees have scored on three of their last four visits to Old Trafford.

We fancy both sides to get on the scoresheet here, with the hosts nicking a victory.

VERDICT: MAN UNITED 2 EVERTON 1 @ 9.00

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 1.83

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WEEKEND BETTING PREVIEW – MCB’s Premier League Guide

We hope you are enjoying your enhanced club betting service. Check it out! And if your club or team has not yet taken advantage, it is time you did.

Get one – it’s completely FREE! Take a look at myclubbetting.com and sign up your club at signup.myclubbetting.com – see the great benefits your club can receive, such as 20% cash back and free kit and equipment!

Complete with the odds from your club’s betting service, we take a glance at the big matches at both ends of the Premier League this weekend… 

EVERTON v ARSENAL

Everton (2.50) will be buoyed after a fantastic result last weekend. Roberto Martinez guided his men to an inspiring 2-0 over Chelsea in their FA Cup quarter final clash at Goodison Park.

ELNENY.jpg
Elneny: Settling well

It has been a terrible couple of weeks for the Gunners. After being strong title favourites at Christmas, Arsenal (2.70) now need a minor miracle if they are going to win the league, especially after recent losses against Swansea and Man United. To compile their current misery, the Gunners lost at home to Watford in the FA Cup last weekend, ending any hopes of lifting the famous trophy for a fourth consecutive year. They were also knocked out of the Champions League on Wednesday.

Romelu Lukaku has been the stand-out man for Everton this season and his wonderful solo effort against Chelsea was proof of his fantastic ability. The powerful Belgian added a second later in the game to heap the misery on the club who sold him 18 months ago. Lukaku is quite rightly among the contenders for PFA Player of the Year after 18 league goals and six assists so far this season.

Despite Arsenal’s dip in form, one highlight has been the form of January arrival Mohamed Elneny. The former Basel midfielder has been selected in the starting 11 for Arsenal’s last three domestic outings, with his energetic displays making him an instant hit with the Gunners’ faithful. That said, Elneny will need to work on his composure in-front of goal, after missing the target with two fairly clear chances in the Gunners’ home loss to Watford last week. He made amends somewhat, when netting in the 3-1 loss to Barcelona in the Camp Nou on Wednesday.

Four of the last five clashes between these clubs have ended with three or more goals, and taking that into consideration, we are going for a high-scoring encounter here, with the home side ending Arsenal’s title hopes. [CC]

VERDICT: EVERTON 2 ARSENAL 1 @ 9.50

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 1.73

CHELSEA v WEST HAM

Last weekend’s FA Cup quarter final defeat at Everton saw Guus Hiddink lose his first domestic game since returning to England. That said, Chelsea (1.67) are in fine league form, with their last defeat coming at Leicester back in December.

BILIC.jpg
Bilic: Impressing everyone

Slaven Bilic is working wonders at Upton Park. West Ham (5.25) have notched up 13 league wins already this season, and are occupying fifth place – currently just two points outside of the Champions League qualification places.

Diego Costa will miss this one through suspension after his disgraceful behaviour at Goodison Park last weekend. The fiery Spanish striker was guilty of numerous fouls and acts of dissent, before finally being sent off for an alleged bite on Gareth Barry. This leaves Guus Hiddink with the tricky choice between Bertrand Traore, Loic Remy or the still unseen Alexandre Pato for the central striking spot ahead of Saturday’s game.

Dimitri Payet is in wonderful form. The West Ham attacking midfielder has scored eight league goals and made seven assists, despite missing three months of the season with an ankle injury. Payet is very dangerous from dead ball situations, as he proved when curling home a wonderful free-kick at Old Trafford last weekend.

West Ham have beaten Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City and Everton away from home this season, collecting an impressive 23 league points on the road during the campaign.

The Hammers were victorious in the reverse meeting between these sides back in October, when a late Andy Carroll header gave the East Londoners all three points at Upton Park.

In truth, West Ham don’t have the greatest record at Stamford Bridge, but we just feel that the home side are far too short for this one and are more than happy to lay them. [CC]

VERDICT: CHELSEA 1 WEST HAM 1 @ 7.00

BEST BET: WEST HAM OR DRAW @ 2.10 

CRYSTAL PALACE v LEICESTER

Despite their fine Cup form, Crystal Palace (3.00) are still without a league win since December. Alan Pardew’s men are in free-fall and still need at least two wins to secure their Premier League status for next season.

OKAZAKI
Okazaki: Match-winner on Monday

Leicester (2.50) are five points clear at the top of the Premier League table after their narrow win against Newcastle on Monday night. Shinji Okazaki’s overhead kick was enough to secure all three points for Leicester – handing the Foxes their 18th win of the season.

Palace have had real problems between the sticks. Pardew has rotated Alex McCarthy and Wayne Hennessy throughout the campaign, leaving fans’ favourite and club icon Julian Speroni without a league appearance all season.

However, after a string of nervy performances and glaring errors from both McCarthy and Hennessy, the Eagles’ faithful are becoming restless and voicing their pro-Speroni views on a regular basis. Surely it is only a matter of time before Pardew recalls the popular Argentine?

Of all the sides in the Premier League, Leicester have been the best performers away from home so far this season. The Foxes have managed to take a staggering 31 points from a possible 45 on the road this season – winning nine times.

However, their recent away performances have most definitely lacked confidence. Leicester have only managed to win three of their last six league away games, losing to both Arsenal and Liverpool, as well as recording a disappointing draw at Villa Park.

Goals aren’t usually on the agenda in games between these two clubs. Crystal Palace and Leicester have shared just four goals in their last three meetings, with the last two both ending in single-goal victories.

We see title nerves getting the better of Leicester here in a low-scoring encounter. [CC]

VERDICT: CRYSTAL PALACE 1 LEICESTER 1 @ 6.00

BEST BET: UNDER 2.5 GOALS @ 1.67 

WATFORD v STOKE

Watford’s (2.50) remarkable season shows no signs of stagnating. They have reached the FA Cup semi-finals after winning 2-1 at Arsenal last weekend and are likely to retain their top-flight status after compiling 37 points with nine games still to play.

Odion Ighalo
Big clubs interested: Ighalo

The adage that you are only as good as your strikers appears to hold true with the Hornets, who have relied heavily on Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo and they have done the business on a regular basis.

However, they have dropped off in recent weeks and have failed to score in seven of their last nine Premier League games. Interestingly, they appear to be mentally switching off in the second half, conceding a league-high 73% of their goals after the interval.

Watford’s home form has not been bad – they have won five of 15 and have drawn a further four times, but while they don’t concede many (12 thus far) at Vicarage Road, they have managed just 13.

Stoke (3.10) are nine points off the top four with eight to play. For all their free-flowing football, which has earned Mark Hughes plenty of plaudits, Stoke have the same problem as Watford: sticking the ball in the onion bag. They have managed just 32 goals in 30 games and their away record has a perfect symmetry, winning five, drawing five and losing five.

They could have done with more from Mame Biram Diouf, who scored his first goal since September, ending a run of 12 league games without a goal, in a 1-1 draw with Chelsea last time.

Watford are unbeaten in their last six meetings with the Potters and will seek to do the double, having won 2-0 in the reverse fixture in October.

Neither side has much to play for. Watford may be on a high. They could also suffer an emotional dip. Stoke are mid-table and while some players may be thinking about their holidays, Hughes is not a manager to allow them that luxury.

Six of the last seven meetings have seen fewer than three goals scored and it looks an obvious route to follow again. The bookmakers know this, of course, and so it often pays to go against the grain in such situations. We go for a relatively high-scoring affair. We’ll chance the visitors, who have lost just one of their last five trips to Vicarage Road. [SM]

VERDICT: WATFORD 1 STOKE 2 @ 11.00

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 2.38 

WEST BROM v NORWICH

West Brom (2.15) are in fine form. The Baggies are now well clear of the relegation zone after recording three wins and a draw from their last four league outings.

NEIL.jpg
Alex Neil: Under pressure

Despite an impressive draw with Manchester City last weekend, Norwich (3.75) are still without a league win since early January. In the 11 league games since their last victory, the Canaries have lost on a staggering nine occasions.

Salomon Rondon looks to have found his shooting boots. After a lean spell since joining the Baggies for a club-record fee over the summer, the Venezuelan international appears to have turned a corner after three goals in his last four Premier League outings – including recent winners against Everton and Manchester United.

Norwich kept just their fourth clean sheet of the season last weekend, a stat that will need to drastically improve if the Canaries are going to avoid relegation come May. Alex Neil’s men have conceded a staggering 54 league goals so far this season, with only bottom club Aston Villa having a worse defensive record.

Much of this has been down to the lack of defensive quality in Alex Neil’s squad. Other than club captain Russell Martin, none of the Norwich defenders look up to the required Premier League standard, with individual errors often costing the Canaries goals and points.

In the last two meetings between these sides, the first goal hasn’t been scored until the second half. With a tight and nervy encounter expected on Saturday, we wouldn’t be surprised if recent history repeated itself.

We are going for a narrow home win, with the first goal coming after the 30-minute mark. [CC]

VERDICT: WEST BROM 1 NORWICH 0 @ 6.50

BEST BET: FIRST GOAL – AFTER 30 MINS @ 2.05

SWANSEA v ASTON VILLA

Aston Villa (6.00) are nine points adrift of safety with eight game remaining, while Swansea can probably feel they will be safe should they win this, as they are eight points clear of the chasing pack.

Ashley Williams 2.jpg
Leading by Example: Williams

Villa are winless in 14 Premier League away games, one short of their record in the competition (15 in December 2003).

They have managed three wins all season and while they showed some renewed spark in their 2-0 home defeat by title-chasing Tottenham last Sunday, they never looked like getting on terms once falling behind.

Remi Garde may not be the man to take Villa out of the Championship, but whomever replaces him faces a massive rebuilding job. Villa are bereft of top young talent, midfielder Jack Grealish aside, and while they will look at Leicester, who were in the same position last season before reeling off seven wins a draw and one defeat, in reality they are preparing for the Championship.

For a side struggling near the foot of the table, Swansea (1.67) do not concede many goals. Ashley Williams is a major factor, the club captain has been in terrific form this season and has weighed in with some vital goals, too.

While they slipped to a 3-2 loss at Bournemouth, recent wins over Arsenal and Norwich have given them enough daylight to think they can survive and they have scored in nine of their 10 league games since the turn of the year.

Gylfi Sigurdsson has scored in seven of his last 11 appearances for the Swans and he may well be a key man in a fixture that Vila have not traditionally fared well in, losing their last four meetings and winning just three of 13 since 1981.

We go for a Swansea win and another nail in the Villa coffin. [SM]

VERDICT: SWANSEA 2 ASTON VILLA 0 @ 6.50

BEST BET: SWANSEA TO WIN @ 1.67

NEWCASTLE v SUNDERLAND

While the Championship Final playoff final is usually known as the £40million/£80m/£120m game depending on which figure any particular newspaper sub-editor chooses to dream up, the outcome of the Tyne-Wear derby is likely to be just as valuable.

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Losing a battle but winning a war: Our man Sam

Sunderland (3.50) have the edge, albeit a slim one. They are a point in front of second-bottom Newcastle with only goal-difference separating them from Norwich, who occupy the final relegation spot, a place below the Black Cats.

MyClubBetting Brand Ambassador Sam Allardyce has done a fine job making chicken salad from chicken scratch and he will hope his side maintain their remarkable recent record against the bitter Northeast rivals, having won the last six meetings. Indeed, Newcastle have not won any of the last eight clashes and have lost their last three meetings at St James’s Park to nil.

Newcastle (2.15) have made a surprising change so late in the season, bringing in Rafa Benitez, who turned down West Ham at the start of the season to manage Real Madrid.

Benitez replaced Steve McClaren last Friday in a shoddily-handled move that Newcastle apologised for. He saw his new side beaten 1-0 by champions-elect Leicester on Monday, but said the signs were positive, despite now going 270 minutes without scoring away from home.

If Newcastle drop, there is not the core present that saw an immediate return to the top flight in the 2009-10 season. They have a lot of young and foreign players, but it is a huge coup to get Benitez.

He won’t be around if they fall, however, as he has a get-out clause in his contract. The gamble needs to start paying off quickly, but you have to question whether they have the players with the mentality for a fight.

They still have to play the likes of Southampton (A), Manchester City (H), Liverpool (A) and Tottenham (H). With Spurs chasing the title, it could be a fascinating last game of the season.

Sunderland have their tough games at home: Leicester, Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton all travel to the Stadium of Light. The Black Cats’ final game is at Watford, who should be on their holidays by then.

Our money is on Allardyce keeping Sunderland up at the expense of Norwich and Newcastle.

They may lose this particular battle before winning the war, however. [SM]

VERDICT: NEWCASTLE 1 SUNDERLAND 0 @ 7.00

BEST BET: UNDER 2.5 GOALS @ 1.70

SOUTHAMPTON v LIVERPOOL

Because of Everton’s FA Cup quarter-final clash with Chelsea meant the Merseyside derby had to be put back, Liverpool (2.88) now find themselves with two games in hand on those around them. Win those two, and they will be a point off of fourth place.

STURRIDGE
Talisman: Sturridge

Liverpool’s midweek Europa League second leg tie at Old Trafford will probably have drained the Reds, who have been resurgent since Daniel Sturridge returned from long-term injury.

There is no question the England striker is their talisman and they look a completely different side when he is in the line-up.

Jurgen Klopp knows he will have to have a major clear-out in the summer, because, defensively at least, the Reds are not where they should be.

Yet you can see the tide turning after a few barren years at Anfield. Liverpool have a handful of talented young players and have some of the foundations upon which to build.

Southampton (2.60) are level on points with Liverpool and sit above them in seventh on goal-difference.

Though still five points behind fifth-placed West Ham, who have a game in hand, Saints boss Ronald Koeman believes that European football next season is still the aim.

They have stuttered in recent weeks, however, losing at Chelsea and Bournemouth, and failing to beat Sunderland at home. They bounced back at Stoke with an impressive first-half display and held on to win 2-1 last Saturday and can dent Liverpool’s own European hopes with a win.

Liverpool have a decent recent record over the Saints, however. They mauled them 6-1 at St Mary’s in the League Cup in December and have won here on their last three visits, winning by two clear goals on each occasion. Usually, meetings between the two end in a positive result, with just two draws occurring in the last 17 meetings.

We feel Liverpool have got into the heads of the Saints a little bit and they can maintain their recent good form. [SM]

VERDICT: SOUTHAMPTON 1 LIVERPOOL 3 @ 26.00

BEST BET: LIVERPOOL WIN AND BOTH TEAMS SCORE @ 6.00

MAN CITY v MAN UNITED

It has been a below-par Premier League campaign for both of the Manchester sides.

Manchester United (4.75) face a real fight to secure Champions League football after a succession of long-term injuries, while the away form shown by neighbours Manchester City (1.75) has all but cost them a third Premier League title.

DE GEA (1)
De Gea: Vital for United

Manuel Pellegrini’s men have only managed to take 20 points from their 14 away league games this season – including a disappointing goalless draw at Norwich last weekend.

That said, Man City’s form at the Etihad has been exceptional. The Sky Blues have the best home record in the league this season, collecting 31 points after winning 10 of their 15 games at the Etihad, netting a staggering 39 goals in the process.

Talking of goals, Sergio Aguero seems to enjoy playing against Man United. The prolific Argentine has managed six goals in his last six appearances against the Red Devils, including braces in 2013 and 2015.

Without David de Gea between the sticks, Man United would currently be languishing in the bottom half of the table. The Spanish keeper has managed to get his side out of jail on numerous occasions this season, keeping 10 league clean sheets so far – including one in the reverse fixture back in October.

Man United have a far from impressive recent record against their neighbours. Manchester City have won five of the last eight meetings between the clubs, including each of the last two clashes at the Etihad.

Considering City’s home form and current record over their neighbours, we are going for a comfortable home win here. [CC]

VERDICT: MAN CITY 2 MAN UTD 0 @ 8.00

BEST BET: MAN CITY TO WIN @ 1.75

TOTTENHAM v BOURNEMOUTH

Tottenham (1.62) are not used to being in the position of challenging for the top four, let alone the title. They get nosebleeds when they get in front of Arsenal. Yes, this is some strange season.

kane
Best around: Harry Kane

So they choked at West Ham and threw away a lead against 10-man Arsenal, capitulated in Dormund and finally got their act together with a win at hapless Aston Villa to remain five points behind leaders Leicester.

Can they win the title? Can they remain in the top four? You never know when you are going to get a truly Spursy performance.

Tottenham have some fine young players. Harry Kane has emerged as the complete all-round player, who can play in almost any position. He should be the first name on the team sheet when Roy Hodgson picks his England team at the European Championships this summer.

But take him, Christian Eriksen and Delli Alli out of the side and Spurs look a mid-table outfit, as they showed when raising the white flag in Dortmund. If they are to fall short, it will be because of their home form. They have drawn five and lost two, while winning eight. Winning every other home game is not the mark of a champion.

They can win the title, as Arsenal and Manchester City look off the pace at times, but it may come down to the final game of the season at Newcastle.

Bournemouth (6.00) assured their top-flight status with a win over Swansea. They have had a remarkable first season in the top flight and they have won five of their road games, losing only six.

Tottenham and Bournemouth have met just once competitively. Spurs won the reverse fixture 5-1 in October.

While we do not see a similar result occurring, the Cherries may feel they have got the job done now and if Spurs get an early goal to calm nerves, they may cruise and send a title warning to Leicester. [SM]

VERDICT: TOTTENHAM 4 BOURNEMOUTH 0 @ 19.00

BEST BET: TOTTENHAM TO WIN @ 1.62

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WEEKEND BETTING PREVIEW – MCB’s FA Cup & Premier League Guide

Your improved club betting service has some great football offers. Check them out! And if your club or team has not yet taken advantage, it is time you did. Get your club its own service – it’s completely FREE! Take a look at myclubbetting.com and sign up your club at signup.myclubbetting.com – see the great benefits your club can receive, such as 20% cash back and free kit and equipment!

160113_FREE-KIT_TW

Complete with the odds from your club’s betting service, we take a glance at the big matches in the FA Cup quarter-finals and the Premier League…

FA CUP

READING v CRYSTAL PALACE

Reading (3.20) have become extremely hard to beat under Brian McDermott, particularly when playing in front of their own fans. The Royals haven’t lost at home in any competition during 2016, and were convincing winners against Premier League West Brom at the Madejski in the last round.

PARDEW (1)
Pardew: Controversial figure

Things have really gone downhill for Crystal Palace (2.25) in recent weeks. The Eagles’ recent FA Cup victories over Southampton, Stoke and Tottenham have provided a welcome distraction from their wretched league form. Alan Pardew’s men haven’t managed a win in any of their last 12 league games and have lost a staggering eight times in that period.

Garath McCleary is without a doubt, Reading’s most dangerous player. The Jamaican international is an old fashioned winger, who enjoys hugging the touchline, beating full-backs and providing strikers with good service. McCleary also has the odd wonder goal in his locker, taking the opportunity to shoot from distance whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Alan Pardew’s first managerial role was at Reading. Pardew took charge at the Madejski in 1999, becoming a popular figure with the Royals’ faithful after guiding the club to the old ‘First Division’ during his tenure. However, his success didn’t go un-noticed and things turned ugly when West Ham made an approach for Pardew in 2003. After a spell of gardening leave and an eventual resignation, Pardew eventually left Reading for Upton Park – something that Royals fans have never forgiven him for.

Games between these two sides usually produce goals. In their last eight clashes, Reading and Crystal Palace have shared an impressive 29 goals, with six of those meetings ending with more than two goals.

We can’t split these two, and see this one going to a replay after a scoring draw. [CC]

VERDICT: READING 2 C. PALACE 2 @ 15.00

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 2.15

EVERTON v CHELSEA

Everton (2.70) will be cursing their luck after surrendering a two-goal lead during their loss to West Ham last weekend, especially after star striker Romelu Lukaku missed a penalty with his side 2-0 to the good.

LUKAKU (1)
Lukaku: Facing former club

Chelsea (2.50) were punished by Stoke last time out, after making wholesale changes in preparation for their game with PSG on Wednesday night. Despite leading 1-0 for a long period at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea couldn’t hold on, eventually conceding a late Mame Diouf goal to draw 1-1.

Romelu Lukaku was a Chelsea player for three years. However, he only made 10 league appearances before being sold to Everton for £28m in 2014, after a successful loan spell.

In truth, the powerful Belgian striker struggled in his first season as a permanent Everton player. However, he has more than made up for that during this campaign. Lukaku has been wonderful this season, and while his 18 league goals have caught the attention, it has been his hold-up play and use of the ball that has impressed the more knowledgeable football fan.

Chelsea’s away form has been superb in 2016. Since the turn of the year, Guus Hiddink’s men have taken 13 points from a possible 15 on the road – conceding just two goals in the five-game period.

Goals are usually on the agenda when these two sides meet at Goodison Park. In their last two clashes at the famous Merseyside stadium, Everton and Chelsea have shared a staggering 13 goals, including the West Londoners’ 6-3 win back in 2014.

Chelsea are yet to lose a domestic game under Guus Hiddink since his return to the club, and we fancy them to avoid defeat again on Saturday evening – in a game where both sides get on the scoresheet. [CC]

VERDICT: EVERTON 1 CHELSEA 2 @ 9.50

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 1.60

Double-Treble_TW

ARSENAL v WATFORD

In recent weeks, Arsene Wenger has come under fire from Gunners’ fans. Prior to their victory over Hull on Tuesday evening, Arsenal (1.52) had gone five games without a win in all competitions, including embarrassing losses against Swansea and a weakened Manchester United team.

GABRIEL
Gabriel: Unconvincing

Watford (6.00) look to be ‘on the beach’ after all but securing their Premier League status last month. Their fifth-round victory over Leeds on February 20th was the Hornets’ last victory in all competitions and Quique Sanchez Flores will be more than concerned after their back-to-back league losses in recent weeks.

The form of Gabriel is worrying many Arsenal fans. The Brazilian defender was bought to the club from Villarreal for over £10m during last year’s January transfer window. However, since arriving at the club, Gabriel has convinced nobody. Whilst the Brazilian’s pace often gets him out of trouble, his positional sense, communication skills and physicality are all well below standard. This was particularly evident in the Gunners’ recent defeat at Old Trafford where Gabriel was given a torrid time by young striker Marcus Rashford.

Watford are really struggling for goals at the moment. Despite having the prolific Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney in their ranks, the Hornets haven’t netted in any of their last three games and have only managed to score five league goals in all of 2016.

After their recent poor league form and seemingly impossible Champions League task, there is no doubting that the FA Cup is now Arsenal’s main priority. We expect them to field a full strength team for this one, subsequently advancing to a third consecutive semi-final appearance with a convincing win. [CC]

VERDICT: ARSENAL 2 WATFORD 0 @ 7.50

BEST BET: ARSENAL TO WIN @ 1.52

MAN UNITED v WEST HAM

Louis van Gaal is back under pressure after Manchester United (1.85) lost at the Hawthorns last weekend. The Red Devils failed to recover after Juan Mata’s first-half dismissal, eventually losing 1-0 after Salomon Rondon’s second half winner.

VAN GAAL (1)
Van Gaal: Still under pressure

The same cannot be said for Slaven Bilic, who has masterminded impressive victories over Tottenham and Everton in the Hammers’ last two games. West Ham (4.00) battled to a 1-0 home win over their bitter London rivals last Wednesday, before coming back from 2-0 down to beat Everton at Goodison Park at the weekend.

Michail Antonio has been in tremendous form of late. The winger initially struggled for a place in the Hammers’ first-team after his summer arrival from Nottingham Forest. However, since being presented with a chance by his manager, Antonio hasn’t looked back, scoring six times in 2016 and netting in his last three appearances.

Despite their struggles, Manchester United have been in wonderful home form lately. Louis Van Gaal’s side have only lost three games at Old Trafford all season – winning all of their last four.

These two clubs are separated by just two Premier League points, so there is no doubting that this one will be a tight affair. That said, West Ham have a dreadful recent record against Sunday’s opponents, with the Hammers failing to win in any of the last 10 meetings.

We are siding with history here, and fancy a narrow home win at Old Trafford. [CC]

VERDICT: MAN UTD 1 WEST HAM 0 @ 6.50

BEST BET: MAN UTD TO WIN @ 1.85

PREMIER LEAGUE

NORWICH v MAN CITY

Norwich (5.50) are in real danger of relegation. Alex Neil’s men are in a wretched run of form after going without a league win since early January – losing in all of their last three outings.

KOMPANY & OTAMENDI
Kompany and Otamendi: Solid

Manchester City (1.60) got back to winning ways last weekend. Manuel Pellegrini’s men were dominant against Aston Villa, eventually running out 4-0 winners at the Etihad after Raheem Sterling and Yaya Toure scored either side of Sergio Aguero’s impressive brace.

Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi look to be establishing themselves as Manchester City’s first-choice central defensive pair. The two have been ever-present since Kompany’s return from injury, and while City are still leaking more goals than Manuel Pellegrini would like, they do look fair more sturdy as a unit without Eliaquim Mangala and Martin Demichelis in the team.

Norwich need to start winning home games if they are going to survive relegation. The Canaries have picked up just 16 points from a possible 42 at Carrow Road, and haven’t managed a win in any of their last five home games.

The Canaries have also struggled in front of goal this season. Alex Neil’s men have scored just 31 league goals all season, with strikers Dieumerci Mbokani and Cameron Jerome sharing a mere seven between them so far.

Manchester City have a wonderful recent record against Saturday’s opponents. Norwich have only managed to win one of the last 12 meetings between the two sides, with Manchester City winning nine times in that period.

It is also worth noting that Manchester City have already beaten Norwich twice already this season, including a 3-0 win at Carrow Road in the January’s FA Cup tie.

Everything points to an away win here, and we fancy a repeat of January’s score line. [CC]

VERDICT: NORWICH 0 MAN CITY 3 @ 11.00

BEST BET: MAN CITY TO WIN @ 1.60

Football-ACCAs_TW

BOURNEMOUTH v SWANSEA

Bournemouth (1.91) face arguably their most important game of the season on Saturday. Last weekend, Eddie Howe’s men got a vital away win at Newcastle, lifting them comfortably clear of the relegation places, and a win at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday will surely see them safe with eight games still to play.

SIGURDSSON
Sigurdsson: Vital for Swansea

Swansea (4.33) face their second successive relegation ‘six-pointer’ this weekend, as Swans’ fans will be hoping for another positive result after their vital victory over fellow strugglers Norwich last weekend.

Charlie Daniels has been an ever-present in the Bournemouth side this season, playing in all but one of the Cherries league games so far. As a converted winger, now playing as a full-back, Daniels looks more than comfortable in the final third, often joining attacks and providing forward players with quality service. This was particularly evident in last week’s game, when Daniels netted his third Premier League goal of the season, and his second in 2016.

There is no doubting that Swansea would be in far deeper trouble if they didn’t have Gylfi Sigurdsson in their ranks. The Icelandic midfielder is by far the Swans’ most talented player, and his eight league goals from midfield this season have been vital to his side’s fight against relegation. While plenty of Sigurdsson’s goals come from dead-ball situations, he can also be found arriving late into the penalty area during counter attacks – as was the case for his winner against Norwich last week.

While both sides are desperate for a win, they also know that avoiding defeat is a must. With that in mind, we are going for a score-draw here. [CC]

VERDICT: BOURNEMOUTH 1 SWANSEA 1 @ 6.50

BEST BET: SWANSEA OR DRAW @ 1.80

STOKE v SOUTHAMPTON

Mark Hughes will be delighted with his side’s recent form. Stoke (2.70) have recovered from a terrible January, and are unbeaten in their last five games – winning four and gaining an impressive point at Chelsea last weekend.

MARK HUGHES (1).jpg
Hughes: Pleased with current form

Southampton (2.75) got out of jail last weekend. Virgil van Dijk rescued a point against Sunderland with his stoppage-time goal, leaving Southampton without a league win in their last three games.

Jack Butland is continuing to impress in the Stoke goal, conceding just three times in their last four games and making numerous game-changing saves. The young England goalkeeper has had a wonderful season, and is well and truly knocking on the door for a starting place in the national side. Butland has played every league game for Stoke this season, keeping an impressive 10 clean sheets in the process.

Ronald Koeman will be concerned with Southampton’s away form this season. The Saints have picked up just 17 points away from home this season, winning on just four occasions.

These two sides are separated by just two Premier League points and are arguably the two most similar sides in the league, with inconsistency being the main issue for both.

Since 2006, these two sides have met on 13 occasions, with a staggering 10 of those games ending with both Stoke and Southampton getting on the scoresheet.

It is also worth noting that four of the last eight clashes between the clubs have ended level.

We can’t split these two – a score draw looks like the most likely option. [CC]

VERDICT: STOKE 2 SOUTHAMPTON 2 @ 17.00

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 2.00

ASTON VILLA v TOTTENHAM

The chokers from White Flag Lane were at it again last week, losing at West Ham and failing to beat 10-man Arsenal.

Just when they look like they will do something special and win the title for the first time since 1961, they do their typically Spursy thing.

Eric Dier
Got lucky: Eric Dier

Arsenal gave their fellow North Londoners a reality check, securing a 2-2 draw in a game that saw some very controversial decisions. There could be no argument about Francis Coquelin’s dismissal for two yellow cards, but how Tottenham’s (1.44) Eric Dier remained on the pitch for blatantly hauling back Olivier Giroud is beyond comprehension. And just for fairness, Hector Bellerin should have walked for pulling back Dele Alli with two minutes to go.

Referee Michael Oliver should be demoted to the Horsham and District Youth Football League roster. Let’s start a petition.

Spurs have a great chance of extending their advantage over Arsenal and the chasing pack as they face a rudderless Aston Villa (7.00) side who lack on-field leadership.

Whether Harry Kane and company can catch top-of-the-table Leicester, who are five points clear, is arguable. We make Leicester 6/5 chances to win the title, with Spurs at 11/4 and Arsenal at 9/2.

Spurs have not lost at Villa Park in the last eight meetings (winning on six occasions, including the last four visits), with Villa’s sole win in the last 15 meetings coming at White Flag Lane last season.

Villa have lost their last four Premier League games and have won just three teams all season.

Not even the most Spursy of Spurs-like performances will see them lose and we see Mauricio Pochettino’s winning by two goals or more. As for any title talk, it may well be just another cock on ball story form the men at No Heart Lane. [SM]

VERDICT: ASTON VILLA 0 TOTTENHAM 4 @ 17.00

BEST BET: TOTTENHAM TO WIN @ 1.50 

LEICESTER v NEWCASTLE

Two teams with everything to play for and both are heading in different directions.

Newcastle (6.00) are in deep trouble. Even Sunderland are above them.

MCCLAREN
On the board but on the brink: Steve McClaren

The Magpies looked bereft of ideas when slumping to a 3-1 home defeat by Bournemouth, a result which looks like preserving the Cherries’ top-flight status. It may well condemn Newcastle to the Championship, although their clashes with Sunderland and Norwich in the next couple of weeks will tell us more.

Steve McClaren is universally lauded as a good coach, but it was interesting to hear Alan Shearer’s comments on Match Of The Day last weekend. He suggested that McClaren is no manager and there is no question that he has something to prove in this capacity.

Their final game of the season is at home to Tottenham, which may well turn out to be highly significant for both clubs.

Leicester (1.57) are five points clear at the top after their 1-0 win at Watford but they still have to face the likes of West Ham (H) before their last three games against Manchester United (A), Everton (H) and Chelsea (A). That is a tough run-in and they cannot afford to slip up against the likes of Newcastle, whom they have beaten in their last three meetings.

Newcastle have lost 16 games already, while Leicester have dropped just three and they are still the team of no-names who simply do not get the attention they deserve.

While Claudio Ranieri has led the team this season, it defies belief that Nigel Pearson, who crafted the squad, is still searching for a job. Newcastle could do a lot worse than to make an approach.

Leicester won the reverse fixture 3-0 in November and a similar result is on the cards. We see Leicester as a decent price at 4/7 and take them to win again.

VERDICT: LEICESTER 3 NEWCASTLE 0 @ 17.00

BEST BET: LEICESTER TO WIN @ 1.57

Get your club, however large or small, its own tailor-made betting service – FREE – and start benefiting now! See myclubbetting.com for details.

If you are not affiliated to a club, you can bet via Bet4Causes.com, where 20% of net revenue goes to sporting charities, who include Greatwood, World Horse Welfare and StreetGames.

You must be 18+ in order to bet. Please gamble responsibly http://www.gambleaware.co.uk

160113_FREE-KIT_TW

 

WEEKEND BETTING PREVIEW – MCB’s Premier League Guide

Your improved club betting service has arrived. Check it out! And if your club or team has not yet taken advantage, it is time you did. Get one – it’s completely FREE! Take a look at myclubbetting.com and sign up your club at signup.myclubbetting.com – see the great benefits your club can receive, such as 20% cash back and free kit and equipment!

We nailed TWO correct FA Cup scores last week at 9/1 and 6/1 and now look to continue our good run with our Premier League selections. Complete with the odds from your club’s betting service, we take a glance at the big matches at both ends of the Premier League this weekend…

TOTTENHAM v ARSENAL

Premier League games don’t come any bigger than this one. Saturday’s game is not just about local pride – it could also turn out to be a title decider. The Gunners must win at White Hart Lane to stay in the race, while Mauricio Pochettino’s men will be more than happy with a point.

SANCHEZ (2)
Sanchez: Out of form

Home form has been a real strong point for Tottenham (2.38) during their impressive campaign. The title contenders have taken an impressive 28 points from 42 at during home games, failing to win on just six occasions in their 14 league games at White Hart Lane.

Arsenal (3.00) may be struggling of late, but they have a fine record in this fixture. The Gunners have only lost one of their last seven meetings with their neighbours, winning four times during that period.

Despite the ‘one of our own’ chants from the Tottenham faithful, Harry Kane was on Arsenal’s books as a youngster and was even rumoured to be a Gunners fan. However, you wouldn’t know it from his form on the field. Kane has scored three times in his last two league appearances against Arsenal, including a sumptuous finish to beat Petr Cech at the Emirates earlier this season.

Alexis Sanchez has really struggled for form since returning from injury. The Chilean winger was particularly poor in the Gunners loss at Manchester United last weekend, and is yet to score a Premier League goal since his strike at Vicarage Road back in October.

In the reverse meeting, Kieran Gibbs snatched a point for Arsene Wenger’s men after Kane’s opener and Tottenham’s overall dominance.

Goals are usually on the agenda when these two bitter rivals meet, with both Arsenal and Tottenham have managing to net in each of the last four clashes.

Taking all the stats into consideration, we fancy a narrow away win, with both sides getting on the scoresheet. [CC]

VERDICT: TOTTENHAM 1 ARSENAL 2 @ 10.00

BEST BET: BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE @ 1.67

 CHELSEA v STOKE

Chelsea (1.44) were rather fortunate to win 2-1 at Norwich on Tuesday night, with Diego Costa’s winner more offside than a Donald Trump sermon in a mosque.

Jack Butland
Butland: England’s other No.1

The champions climbed to eighth with their third successive victory, five points adrift of fifth-placed Manchester United and eight adrift of fourth-placed Manchester City.

Confidence is high since Chelsea tipped Jose Mourinho over the side of the leaking boat and Guus Hiddink has steered the West Londoners to calmer waters. They have the FA Cup and Champions League still to play for, and are on a run of one defeat in 16 in all competitions since mid-December (a 2-1 reverse at PSG in the first leg of their Champions League 1st Knockout Round clash).

Stoke (7.00) jumped above Chelsea on Wednesday evening, following their 1-0 win over Newcastle, to put them in seventh place. Having suffered a wobble, taking one point from a possible 12 and going out of the League Cup and FA Cup within the space of four days, Mark Hughes’ side has shown plenty of character. The Potters have won their last three to stay in the hunt for the European places.

Keeper Jack Butland has been one of the highs in a tremendous season for Stoke and will shortly sign a new long-term deal. He is also expected to be in the England squad for Euro 2016 and may well push Joe Hart for the No.1 spot.

Stoke beat Chelsea 1-0 in November. The last time they did that, they followed up with a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge in the reverse fixture. That was in the 1973/74 season, thet last time they won back-to-back games against the Blues.

Indeed, Stoke have managed just two wins over Chelsea in the last 20 attempts and in the form the hosts are currently in, we feel City’s mini-revival may come to a halt. [SM]

VERDICT: CHELSEA 3 STOKE 0 @ 9.00

BEST BET: CHELSEA WIN TO NIL @ 2.20

EVERTON v WEST HAM

Everton’s (1.73) home form has been nothing short of dreadful. They have won just four of their last 14 league games at Goodison Park and lost six times.

Romelu Lukaku 2
Lukaku: Loves scoring against West Ham

Currently in mid-table, they are five points behind visitors West Ham (4.50) with a game in hand on the Londoners.

Roberto Martinez’s side are probably too far off the pace to think about a top four spot, yet the talent within the side means they should probably be higher up the table. They do, however, still have the FA Cup to play for and the prospect of picking up a trophy after 21 barren years has energised the faithful.

Everton, beaten 1-0 by West Brom in their last home league game, have since bounced back with successive away wins at Bournemouth (FA Cup) and Aston Villa in the Premier League.

Sixth-placed West Ham, who beat Tottenham on Wednesday, may provide just the tonic to cure their home blues. For Everton are one of West Ham’s bogey teams. The Happy Hammers turn hapless when faced with the Merseysiders, who have not lost to them in the last 18 meetings. The last time West Ham won at Goodison was way back in 2005.

Given West Ham’s emotionally draining clash with Tottenham and given that they face Manchester United in the FA Cup at Old Trafford next weekend, this is a game that they could have done without. We don’t see Slaven Bilic’s side gaining much confidence from a rare Everton home win.

Those who wish to plunder the great Dubble Bubble First Goalscorer offer should look no further than Romelu Lukaku. The Everton marksman has netted in each of his last seven appearances against the Hammers.

That said, if the Hammers were to somehow win, they could still be title challengers, having to still play the likes of Leicester, Arsenal and Manchester United. They look certain to play a role in who wins the Premier League. [SM]

VERDICT: EVERTON 2 WEST HAM 0 @ 8.00

BEST BET: EVERTON TO WIN @ 1.73

MAN CITY v ASTON VILLA

Aston Villa (13.00) fans take no comfort from the fact that Leicester were in their position this time last year. Now they are on the verge of the Premier League title.

Pelegrini
Pellegrini: A dignified winner

But the Villains are on the verge of dropping into the Championship and, with few leaders and fewer star names to sell, it may be some time before the Midlanders bounce back to the top flight.

Marooned eight points adrift of safety, they were inept in a 3-1 home defeat by Everton on Tuesday and they have won just three games all season. Time is running out, but it seems the players have already consigned themselves to the obvious.

Manchester City (1.18) have lost just two of the last 17 meetings and Villa have failed to score in four of the last five meetings. Their defeat at Liverpool on Wednesday evening means they are 10 points behind first-placed Leicester and are in danger of being caught for fourth place.

Yet this presents an easy opportunity to not only win the game, but to rest a few tired legs before their Champions League second-leg home tie against Dynamo Kiev.

Manuel Pellegini’s City will look to bounce back from their avenged League Cup success, and depending on what side they select, it will either be a narrow win or an emphatic victory.

We go for the former. [SM]

VERDICT: MAN CITY 2 ASTON VILLA 0 @ 6.00

BEST BET: MAN CITY WIN TO NIL @ 1.83

NEWCASTLE v BOURNEMOUTH

Newcastle (2.63) are still well and truly in a relegation battle, despite splashing out big money on the likes of Andros Townsend and Jonjo Shelvey in the January transfer window.

GRADEL
Gradel: Fit again

Bournemouth (2.63) have struggled for goals this season. The Cherries have been hampered since losing key man Callum Wilson to injury back in September, netting less than 35 goals during the entire campaign.

Georginio Wijnaldum has been Newcastle’s best player this season. The young Dutchman arrived from PSV for over £14m in the summer, and has looked like real value for money after netting nine league goals from midfield this season, including FOUR against Norwich back in October. The talented youngster has also become a permanent fixture in the Dutch national team this season and even managed to get on the scoresheet during their unsuccessful Euro 2016 qualification campaign.

Max Gradel arrived at Bournemouth for big money in the summer, however things really haven’t gone to plan since. The former Leeds and Leicester winger damaged cruciate knee ligaments in just his fourth appearance in Bournemouth colours, subsequently missing the next five months of competitive action. However after lengthy rehabilitation, Gradel returned to the Cherries first team against Watford last weekend, much to the delight of his manager Eddie Howe. The tricky Ivorian has the ability to help drive the Cherries to Premier League safety this season, providing he can stay fully fit for their last 10 league games.

Only two of the last six league games at St James Park have ended with more than two goals, while Bournemouth have scored just three times in their last five league games away from home and have failed to score at all in three games during that period.

We see a low scoring encounter being played out here, with the home side edging it, just as they did in the reverse fixture last November. [CC]

VERDICT: NEWCASTLE 1 BOURNEMOUTH 0 @ 8.50

BEST BET: UNDER 2.5 GOALS @ 1.83 

SOUTHAMPTON v SUNDERLAND

Ronald Koeman will be delighted with his sides home form of late, along with their current league position – particularly when you consider their poor start to the season. Prior to their defeat against Chelsea last weekend, Southampton (1.45) had managed to notch up five straight home league wins, including a stunning 4-0 win over Arsenal on Boxing Day.

KOEMAN
Koeman: Happy with home form

Sunderland (7.00) need to find at least 15 points from their remaining ten games in order to avoid relegation. That said, they do have the easiest run-in of all their other relegation candidates, with the Black Cats facing just one of the current top six between now and the end of the season.

Sadio Mane has struggled for form this season. The attacking midfielder has a wonderful debut campaign last season, scoring and assisting goals on a regular basis. His form caught the eye of Manchester United during the summer, who reportedly registered an interest in the Senegal international, however nothing came to fruition.

In truth, the interest has had a negative impact on Mane, who has scored just three league goals and been dropped by his manager on numerous occasions – most notably against Norwich in early January.

Sam Allardyce will be concerned by his sides away form this season. Sunderland have collected just 8 points from their 14 games away from the Stadium of Light, winning on just two occasions.

Southampton have a wonderful record against Saturday’s opponents. The Saints have lost in just two of their last 11 meetings with Sunderland, with their 8-0 win back in 2014 still sticking in the minds of both sets of fans.

Taking stats and form into consideration, we see nothing other than a convincing home win at St Marys, despite the short price. [CC]

VERDICT: SOUTHAMPTON 2 SUNDERLAND 0 @ 6.00

BEST BET: SOUTHAMPTON TO WIN @ 1.45

SWANSEA v NORWICH

With both sides in awful form and dangerously close to the bottom three, Saturday’s game at the Liberty Stadium has a real ‘relegation six pointer’ feel about it.

Alberto Paloschi
Paloschi: New man at the Liberty Stadium

Swansea (1.85) have a wretched home Premier League record this season. The Swans have only managed to win four times at the Liberty Stadium all season, with only two coming since August.

Alex Neil will be a worried man. Norwich (4.20) are without a win since any of their last nine league games – a run dating back to the first week of January.

Alberto Paloschi has been Francesco Guidolin’s only signing since taking over at Swansea in January. Under Garry Monk, goals were extremely hard to come by, with the Swans main marksman Bafetimbi Gomis netting just five league goals in the past six months.

This prompted the Guidolin to bring in the former Milan and Parma frontman. In truth, Paloschi has a less than convincing career goal scoring record – netting well under a 100 league goals during his nine years in Italy.

That said, Swansea’s new front man has impressed since arriving and grabbed his first goal in English football with a convincing finish at White Hart Lane last weekend.

There is no doubt that Norwich will need to stay in the Premier League in order to keep winger Nathan Redmond at the club. The England under 21 international is the Canaries main threat, with his pace and direct style causing full backs across the country all sorts of problems so far this season.

Neither side will want a draw here, so we see an open game at the Liberty Stadium. It is also worth noting that six of the last eight meetings between Norwich and Swansea have ended with more than two goals being scored.

We are going for a scoring draw here. [CC]

VERDICT: SWANSEA 2 NORWICH 2 @ 15.00

BEST BET: OVER 2.5 GOALS @ 2.05 

WATFORD v LEICESTER

Winning games like this is going to essential if Leicester (2.40) are going to be crowned Champions come May. The Foxes have an excellent record on the road this season, collecting a staggering 28 points from their 14 away league games so far.

DRINKWATER
Drinkwater: Fine campaign

Watford (2.88) will have to guard against complacency in the coming weeks. Relegation is now out of the question for the Hornets, while a Europa League spot looks like a step too far, meaning in theory, Watford have nothing to play for other than pride.

Danny Drinkwater has had a wonderful campaign. The former Manchester United trainee has been the best English central midfielder in the Premier League this season, with many calling for the powerful midfielder to be included in Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2016 squad.

Recently, the goals have dried up for Odion Ighalo. Despite scoring 14 Premier League goals this season, the Nigerian striker hasn’t netted since the end of January. It has been a similar story for his strike partner Troy Deeney who has scored just three times in 2016.

Like Claudio Ranieri’s men, Watford have had a wonderful campaign and will be no pushovers on Saturday evening. The Hornets may be cagey and compact away from home, but at Vicarage Road they prefer to keep possession and focus on pressing their opponents. However, that type of set-up is ideal for the Foxes, who play best when operating with a fast counter attacking style.

We are going for a narrow away win here. [CC]

VERDICT: WATFORD 1 LEICESTER 2 @ 9.50           

BEST BET: LEICESTER TO WIN @ 2.40

CRYSTAL PALACE v LIVERPOOL

Crystal Palace (3.40) have had Liverpool’s (2.10) number in the last few seasons. The Eagles have lost just two of the last eight meetings and have won three of the last four.

KLOPP
On the rise: Klopp and Liverpool

Yet Liverpool, avenged their gut-wrenching League Cup final defeat on penalties to Manchester City by beating Mauel Pellegrini’s side at Anfield in the league on Wednesday, are starting to look a much better side than they did before Jurgen Klopp took charge.

True, the German needs to shake up his squad, which is ridden with average players on big-money contracts. And that will take time.

Yet Liverpool, who still have an outside chance of a Champions League berth and are through to the quarter-finals of the Europa League, may be able to shake off the Palace hex.

The Reds won on their last trip to Selhurst Park – in last season’s FA Cup – and the Alan Pardew magic appears to have worn off lately, as Palace are in freefall.

Following their 202 draw at Sunderland on Tuesday, Palace have no gone 11 Premier League games without a win and they have lost their last four home games.

While two more wins will likely see Pardew’s side retaining their top-flight status, their lack of goals, particularly from their strikers, is troubling. Emmanuel Adebayor’s arrival has not worked the oracle as yet, and while Pardew has plenty of his big names fit again, they are not firing.

Palace do have an FA Cup quarter-final to look forward to and Reading are an average Championship team ripe for the taking. So a trip to Wembley for the semi-final is on the cards.

With league safety almost certain and a big game in the offing next week, it may be that some players may be a yard or two off the pace against Liverpool.

Nine of the last 10 meetings saw both sides net and we see a narrow away win for the visitors. [SM]

VERDICT: CRYSTAL PALACE 1 LIVERPOOL 2 @ 9.00

BEST BET: LIVERPOOL WIN AND BOTH TEAMS SCORE @ 4.50

WEST BROM v MAN UTD

The battle for fourth place is now getting interesting, with fourth-placed Manchester City and fifth-placed Manchester United level on 47 points and West Ham breathing down their necks in sixth, a point behind.

Marcus Rashford
Starlet: Marcus Rashford

City are in the driving seat but aside from a valuable Champions League win in Kiev, their League form is starting to tail off.

True, they have won a pot, but the League Cup will be a mere token given the anticipation of the fans and the money spent at the Etihad on the squad.

Manchester United (1.95) have a winnable FA Cup quarter-final home tie with West Ham to look forward to and they are also in with a great chance of landing the Europa League.

With Marcus Rashford bursting on to the scene, suddenly United look a more potent force after a season of turbulence and tepid football under Louis van Gaal.

West Brom (4.00) have lurched from the woeful to the sublime at times this term. Tuesday’s 2-2 draw at Leicester, aside from being a delight to watch, showed Tony Pulis’s side can mix it with better opposition. Their win over Crystal Palace last week eased the pressure and went a long way to securing their top-flight status for another year.

West Brom have lost just two of the last six meetings with United, but the Red Devils now have plenty to play for after beating Watford on Wednesday and we see them getting at least a point – the draw is available at 3.25 – at the Hawthorns. [SM]

VERDICT: WEST BROM 1 MAN UTD 1 @ 6.00

BEST BET: FIRST GOAL UP TO AND INCLUDING 30TH MINUTE @ 2.10  

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