Another week, another Man City win. It’s not official yet, but they’re 16 points clear with just 27 left to play for, so the wheels would have to come right off to not see the title go to the blue side of Manchester this season.
At the other end it’s still tight. So tight, in fact, that Swansea’s win over West Ham moved them from the drop zone to 13th. Aside from Brighton’s win, none of the other teams in the relegation conversation managed a win, and a couple play each other again this week, so the battle to avoid the drop will remain enthralling for the rest of the year. Except for West Brom, they’re gone…
Brighton’s win came at the expense of Arsenal, their fourth from five in the league and you can hear the “Wenger Out” cries getting louder each week. Surely he goes at the end of the year? Another team who’ve lost four out of five, and somewhat quieter than the Gunners, are Chelsea, who have fallen from second to fifth as a result, five points shy of a Champions League spot. Conte out anyone?
A couple of goals for Son means he was the best player in round 29 with 16 and mean Spurs keep that five-point gap in fourth. Fans will hope he produces the goods again this weekend.
With all the excitement of the return of NRL games and some big fixtures in the EPL, this weekend promises to be a good one sporting-wise so let’s have a look at what’s ahead:
Man United v Liverpool (Game of the Round)
Something of a no-brainer here. The two most successful English teams, and current 2nd and 3rd placed sides, meeting in the early Saturday game that’s also on SBS – how could it not be GOTR!
Both sides come into this in decent form. The Reds have dropped only two points in their last five. United have a loss to Spurs and a shock defeat to Newcastle in their previous, but also have wins in the last two, including a triumph over Chelsea in round 28. Both sides are scoring around two a game and conceding around one a game on average.
Two ever-present Premier League sides, so they’ve met 51 times in the league. The Red Devils lead this 27-13, which is not overly surprising given they’ve been the more successful team in the PL era. United are also unbeaten in the last five between the two, although the last three have been draws, including 0-0 back in October, where United managed just one shot on target and six total shots to Liverpool’s 19. I imagine it will be a different story at Old Trafford though.
I think it will be a tight one, but can see the home field advantage getting United home. 2-1 for mine.
Everton v Brighton
I’m informed that Burnley had never won a game when behind at half-time, until they played Everton last week. The loss a second on the bounce for the Toffees and enough to see them drop back into the bottom half for the first time in a while. Brighton however are on a great run, unbeaten in five with three wins and a draw, and are really battling for their survival. They now sit in the top half at Everton’s expense and look almost safe for this season, a great result for any promoted team.
The one time these two have met before was back in round 8, finishing in a 1-1 draw. I think this is probably the most likely result again, but if anyone wins it I see the Seagulls doing so, which will be worrying for Everton fans.
Huddersfield v Swansea
Two sides right amongst the relegation battles, but also two sides potentially putting enough results together to save themselves. Swansea have lost just one of the last five and have three wins from the other four, including a great win over Arsenal and the 4-1 drubbing of the Hammers last out. The Terriers have won two of their five, but for context their losses have come to Spurs, United and Liverpool, so they are winning against the teams they have to which will serve them well in the closing weeks. 2-0 to the Swans back in October, but I think these two have too much to fight for to lose. Draw.
Newcastle v Southampton
Another massive game in the battle for the drop sees Southampton travel to St James’ Park, looking to better the 2-2 draw against the Magpies on home soil. The Saints have the slight edge in the head to head, leading 15-11 from 33, and are unbeaten in the last five against the hosts. That was the Southampton of the last few seasons however, and current year Saints have been a lot worse. Add in the fact that the away side have only won this fixture in four of the 33 and I have to back my boys for the win.
West Brom v Leicester
Hard to get excited about West Brom at the moment, who’ve lost all of their last five. Also hard to feel any sympathy for Alan Pardew as a Newcastle fane, but I digress. Leicester haven’t been that flash recently either, with just three points from their last five.
You feel three of the Baggies’ last four games (Southampton, Huddersfield and Watford) were the must-wins if they were to avoid the drop, and they’ve lost all of them. They did garb a point against the Foxes in the reverse fixture, but I don’t see that happening again here. Away win.
West Ham v Burnley
The battle of the claret and blue sides comes to the London Stadium and West Ham host Burnley. Both sides not in great nick with just a win each in their last five. The Clarets though are safe from any relegation talk after a strong start while the Hammer remain in the fight at the bottom sitting 14th. Seven previous meetings have seen five go the way of the home side and just one Burnley win. In fact, the Clarets have never taken a point away in this one. With the Hammers coming off consecutive 4-1 losses, there’s never been a better chance, but I can see a bounce-back home win.
Chelsea v Crystal Palace
Palace shocked Chelsea in the reverse fixture to record their first win of the season back in October. The timing of this on isn’t bad either, with Chelsea’s poor recent form spoken about above. The Eagles haven’t been great themselves however, with just two points from their last five and throwing away a 2-0 lead to lose to United last out.
17 previous matchups have produced 11 Chelsea wins and two draws, so the odds very much in the favour of the home side. Add in the poor form and the desperation they’ll no doubt have and a Chelsea win seems likely. Never fully write off a team battling against the drop though (except West Brom, write them off…).
Arsenal v Watford
In recent years, most teams would dread a trip to the Emirates, but after recent form they’ll be lining up. Especially when it’s Watford, who’ve beaten the Gunners 2-1 in each of the last two meetings between the two (having lost the seven before that in a row). The Hornets have turned around fortunes somewhat in recent weeks, with three wins and draw in the last five.
Does that mean I see a Watford win this weekend? Nah, Arsenal to bounce back.
Bournemouth v Tottenham
Both sides come into this in good form – Spurs dropping only two points from their last five, moving them into fourth, whilst Bournemouth have only lost one in the same period, putting a big of daylight between them and the drop zone.
This will be a tough ask for the Cherries however. They’ve played Spurs five times in the PL and have only taken a single point from those games. In those five, they’ve also conceded 13 and scored just the once. On paper it seems like a no-brainer and it probably is, unless Spurs show up with a major European hangover.
Stoke v Man City
Closing out the round sees the Champions leaders travel to Stoke to test the old adage “can they do it on a cold, rainy night in Stoke?” The answer is probably and they certainly did it at the Etihad back in October, running out 7-2 winners.
Recent form has been good for the Citizens, dropping just two points from their last five and not adding to their one league defeat for the season. In the same period, Stoke have not won a game, but have managed four draws out of the five.
19 previous meetings have produced ten City wins and just three for the Potters. There’s no way this won’t be number 11 for the visitors.
Leroy Sane (8.5m) the most popular trade in this week. With the form City are in, never a bad idea to bring in one of their players and with Sterling doubtful (and the most traded out player this round) his job security is not bad.
Son (8.1m) is the second most popular trade this round. Can’t argue here, always a threat for some goals/assists while proving cheaper than the likes of Kane and Eriksen.
Glenn Murray (5.9m) is amongst the favourites this week. As in-form strikers go, he’d be the cheapest one around and Everton have conceded a few recently so he’s a chance for more this weekend. Lock him in!
Willian (6.9m) is another popular one. I still can’t get on board. He’s been very patchy, scoring two or less in four of his last five and seven of his last 11 games. That said, he does have the ability to turn it on, so If he does fire he’s a good one to have, I just couldn’t take the risk with others out there.
Rounding out the top five this week is Ben Davies (5.9m). He seems to have the edge over Danny Rose and Spurs are tight at the back. If he can get back to his scoring/assisting ways, he’s a real keeper.
Outside of that, David Silva (8m) has put a couple of good games together and looks to have put his issues behind him in a return to form.
With how poor West Brom have been, I’d load on Leicester players even with their mixed form. Loading on Mahrez , Vardy (both 8.7m) and Albrighton (5.6m).
A very winnable City game and a rested Sergio Aguero put him as my top captain choice this round, although De Bruyne, Sane and David Silva nothing to be sneered at in reserve.
Chelsea have a decent draw as well, so Hazard and Morata would be my picks there, if the latter gets a start having come from the bench last week.
Spurs should win, so Kane, Eriksen and Son solid picks, as are the key Leicester players above.
If you’re looking for a more left-field pick, look no further than Glenn Murray at Brighton or Antonio as West Ham.
Bet of the Week
Managed to pick seven of the ten games last week, including a couple of draws at great $3.60 odds, but certainly didn’t see the Brighton or Swansea wins coming. Odds for my picks this week:
- Man United v Liverpool: United $2.60
- Everton v Brighton: Brighton $3.60
- Huddersfield v Swansea: Draw $3.00
- Newcastle v Southampton: Newcastle $2.75
- West Brom v Leicester: Leicester $2.50
- West Ham v Burnley: West Ham $2.20
- Chelsea v Crystal Palace: Chelsea $1.28
- Arsenal v Watford: Arsenal $1.45
- Bournemouth v Tottenham: Spurs $1.45
- Stoke v Man City: City $1.20
I see Arsenal stepping up a gear this week, so $7 for Aubameyang to grab two or more looks value.