Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.
The Capital One Cup’s relative significance is an issue that one could quite debate till they are blue in the face. However, with Arsenal, United and Chelsea crashing out of the tournament in the same round, it is clear that the unpredictable nature that has defined the league thus far is not just an aberration. The top sides all look vulnerable, boding well for a long, competitive title hunt.
One side that need not worry about such lofty heights is Chelsea. They are a side carrying far too many passengers. How can your club be ok with having your top striker openly admitting to being overweight? It seems as if Mourinho has lost the respect of a dressing room previously prepared to die for him. Liverpool (ironically caught up in the honeymoon of Kloppmania) could very well be the side that breaks Abramovich’s resolve for good. Elsewhere there is your usual array of mouth-watering fixtures that herald yet another weekend of Premier league action.
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West Brom 18/10
Leicester City 15/10
West Brom have surprised me with their ability to consistently win games without playing remotely well. Saido Berahino is the only player that I could envisage at a top six club in the side, yet they continually are able to frustrate opposition attacks through Pulis’ roughly hewn, no-nonsense defensive cohesion. Leicester really represent the other way that a team can go in order to compete with more illustrious clubs. Ranieri’s side embrace a devil-may-care mantra that flies in the face of Pulis’ pragmatism. Jamie Vardy may not be afforded the space in this game as others so far this season.
Verdict: Both teams to score - no - 19/20. West Brom have been in two consecutive one-nil victories and Pulis will be looking to consolidate. He should suffocate the space and I see a one-nil result either way.
West Ham United 18/10
Watford have been a model of obstinacy thus far this season, with the inspirational Troy Deeney finally opening his account for the season with the first goal away at the Britannia. West Ham’s remarkable season showed little sign of abating with an excellent win over Chelsea. It would have pleased Hammers fans that Andy Carroll found the score-sheet, offering Bilic another option to compliments the likes of Sakho and Kouyate. Payet has become the creative hub of the side, with his incisive and expansive range of passing offering West Ham a variety of counterattacking options.
Verdict: Westham 18/10. I am going to go out on a limb here and predict another West Ham win on the road.
Swansea City 36/10
Swansea City broke a poor cycle of form with an impressive comeback victory that resigned Tim Sherwood to his fairly obvious fate. Andre Ayew continued to lay a claim to signing of the season while Glyfi Sigurdsson curled in a magnificent free-kick that further enhanced his reputation as a dead-ball master. Arsenal’s shock cup exit to Sheffield Wednesday came at a time when it looked as if the side could do nothing wrong. But a host of changes saw Wenger’s side plummet to a frankly embarrassing defeat. But Wenger will know that their current priority is really picking up a result in Munich next week. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Wenger once again chooses to rest one or two key players. They are in an excellent position in the league while their Champions League life hangs by a thread.
Verdict: Double Chance - Swansea to win or draw at 21/20. I feel there is some value in the home team taking advantage of Arsenal’s upcoming game in Munich.
Newcastle United 14/10
Stoke City 19/10
Stoke’s nerve-jangling victory over Chelsea in the Cup was just the tonic necessary after what was a shock home defeat to Watford. John Walters justified a potential recall to the first team proper, while Arnauntovic (a.k.a Austrian Zlatan) is fast becoming a key figure in Hughes’ revolution at the club. Hughes will also be pleased that Shawcross got a full game under his belt, as the Stoke defence has looked somewhat flimsy without him. Newcastle’s inevitable Tyne-Wear derby defeat did nothing to ease the pressure on perpetually embattled manager Steve McLaren.
Verdict: Total goals under 2.5 at 7/10. I am leaning towards Stoke, but one thing I can almost guarantee is a lack of goals. Total Goals less than 2.5.
Manchester City 1/4
Norwich City 17/2
There is no such thing in this world as a sure thing; just go ask Arsene Wenger about his trip to Sheffield. But Norwich’s form has been abysmal of late, with that 6-2 away defeat to Newcastle lingering like John Obi Mikel’s presence at Chelsea Football club. City have been resurgent since that inexplicable early-season blip against West Ham and Spurs. De Bruyne looks an early contender for player of the season, providing both the vision of the missing Silva and precision of the similarly aded Aguero. Additionally, Kompany and Otemendi looked regal last weekend, strongly suggesting that that may well be Pellegrini’s go-to centre-half combination.
Verdict: Halftime-Fulltime Double - City at 7/10. I see City ruthlessly dispatching of a Norwich side perhaps exhausted by the exigencies of Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup defeat.
Crystal Palace 26/10
Manchester United 21/20
Palace have been on an indifferent run of form of late, which has seen fellow surprise packages Leicester and West Ham gain some ascendancy in the league table. Teams seem a bit more comfortable dealing with Zaha and Bolasie, denying them the space to get in behind while choking quick counterattacks through man-marking. United’s Capital One Cup exit featured a series of troubling performances in the side. When will Van Gaal’s patience with Wayne Rooney run out? The beleaguered English striker was a momentum cooler on various occasions while Memphis Depay was quite frankly awful in possession.
Verdict: Palace at 26/10
It will be interesting to see how United bounce back, but with the Champs league coming up I fancy Palace actually getting all three points. Palace to win, surprisingly.
Sunday 1 November
So the ghosts of derbies past came to roost and Big Sam picked up his first win on Sunday afternoon. Something about these derbies brings out the best in mercurial talent Adam Johnson. If only he could replicate that performance week in - week out, alongside the likes of Fletcher and Jens. Everton managed to avoid the Capital One Cup banana peel and will be earmarking this as a must win match. Deoleufeou has to start, while Funes Mori will have to come in for the injured Jagielka. Everton pushed Arsenal hard last weekend and should have too much for Allardyce’s men.
Verdict: Halftime-Fulltime Double - Draw for the first half, Everton to win the second at 31/10. I expect dogged Allardyce to frustrate Everton for the first forty-five, but ultimately one moment of quality could settle the matter in Everton’s favour.
Ronald Koeman’s ability to reconfigure relatively decimated squads is something to behold. He managed to keep Wanyama and Mane at the club while resurrecting the goal scoring exploits of Graziano Pelle. Fonte and Van Dijk have also been immense in the heart of defence. What to say of Bournemouth? Two consecutive five-goal howlers have exposed the fragile spine of the club. Boruc and Federici have been equally appalling in goal, leaving Eddie Howe with an interesting selection issue come the weekend.
Verdict: Southampton 11/20. I can only see one winner: Southampton.
Monday 2 November
Tottenham Hotspurs 4/10
Aston Villa 13/2
Villa will be hoping to secure the signature of their new manager as soon as possible, cognisant of the fact that a gap can turn into a chasm quickly in this league. Remi Garde - a man who apparently played for Arsenal at some point- is the main contender, a slightly quizzical one if you ask me. One would think that a slightly obscure foreign manager card is not best suited to a cut-adrift Midlands side at this point. Spurs, on the other hand, are enjoying a period of dormant stability that could herald the beginning of something resembling consistency. Kane has found the score-sheet again while Clinton and Alli have emboldened the side tremendously.
Verdict: A comfortable home win at 4/10.
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