Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.
The Premier League returns in the wake of events that have shaken the world to its core. The rich entertainment that the league provides will come as a welcome respite to realities that have rightfully overshadowed any sporting endeavour of late. Liverpool’s trip to City will really test Jurgen Klopp’s aggressive, attacking mantra to its zenith. City are expecting Aguero to return, which will only serve to bolster what is a formidable City side. Remi Garde’s attempts to resurrect Villa’s catatonic season takes him to Roberto Martinez’s Everton while Sunderland’s trip to Palace is yet another critical fixture in the Sam Allardyce itinerary. Chelsea’s absurdist comedy act sees them host Norwich City this weekend. What happens there is really anybody’s guess. United and Arsenal both have tricky away fixtures that could cause a further shake-up at the top of the table.
Saturday 21st November
Manchester United 17/20
Sanchez-Flores has done something quite remarkable with a side hardly teeming with world beaters. Ighalo and Deeney have been a persistent goal threat, which is critical for newly promoted sides in expressing their survival desire in this league. United will likely be without Anthony Martial for the weekend, quite a blow for Van Gaal considering the relative lack of pace in the United side. Lingaad and Young may be preferred to the disappointing Depay, while Smalling continues to stand firm as England’s best defender this year.
Verdict: Double Chance- Watford to win or draw at 17/20- United will struggle without Martial’s ability to get in behind Watford’s defence.
West Brom 21/4
West Brom have had a topsy-turvy season that has been rather antithetical to their ysyal meat and potatoes brand of pragmatism. They will be without Gareth McCauley this weekend through suspension, which will stretch their defence to its limits. Arsenal will look to exploit Chris Brunt at left full-back. Even without Walcott’s pace they should be able to pick off a slow West Brom defence. Olivier Giroud’s frame of mind may prove critical in spearheading the Arsenal attack. He is the type of striker that has to be operating at in the correct headspace to exploit his talents.
Verdict: I’m going bold here and going for the Halftime-Fulltime Double- Draw for the first half and Arsenal to win the second at 3/1. West Brom should hold out till half-time while Arsenal crack into gear in the second half.
The wolves will certainly be out this week in Swansea if Gary Monk’s Welsh contingent are unable to down a severely depleted Bournemouth side. Jonjo Shelvey’s dip in form has paralleled that of Gomis, whose early season goal-scoring form has completely abandoned him. It seems as if their possession based football has become laboured and predictable while they are desperate for another striking option. How Bournemouth never beat Newcastle is a mystery of Scooby-Doo proportions. They remain an exciting team at home, despite their injury concerns, but the road has not been kind to a side still learning to navigate the travails of the league.
Verdict: I’m going for a comfortable home victory at 9/10, with Jefferson Montero wreaking havoc on the left-hand side.
Stoke City 5/1
Southampton face Stoke in what traditionally has become a clash of footballing ideologies in the Premier League. However, Mark Hughes’ has overseen a fairly dramatic aesthetic overhaul at Stoke that has seen far greater emphasis on possession. Arnautovic and Bojan have brought some guile to the side while Diouf and Walters hold the flag for the past and offer Hughes some invaluable options going forward. Southampton’s season has really picked up momentum in the aftermath of an uncertain transfer window that threatened to destabilize the club. Mane and Wanyama remained, while Pelle has rediscovered a seemingly lost goal scoring touch.
Verdict: Both sides to score- Yes at 21/20. This is a tight encounter, but Stoke’s more open approach on the road should necessitate a more open game that will see both sides finding the score-sheet.
Newcastle United 7/4
Leicester City 14/10
Jamie Vardy’s quest for Premier League immortality hardly finds its most challenging obstacle with a trip to Newcastle this weekend. How on earth Newcastle withstood Bournemouth’s avalanche last time around is something I will never know. Leicester will not be so sympathetic in front of goal, with both Vardy and Mahrez in crazy goal-scoring form. Additionally, you can’t help but be drawn to the fact that Newcastle field a fairly large French contingent that may not quite be up for the menacing runs of Vardy or cuteness of Mahrez. Newcastle are just too cumbersome and will be exposed by a Leicester side overflowing with invention and pace. I expect Schlupp to terrorize the left-hand side.
Verdict: Leicester to win at 14/10. Vardy may indeed be an injury doubt for the game, but this could galvanize the Foxes into proving that they are far more than a one man side.
Aston Villa 19/4
Remi Garde certainly won some fans over with his side’s pugnacious display against City last time out. They do lack a cutting edge however and will surely need to employ Rudi Gestede in a Benteke-esque role up front. Clark and Richards will provide the likely defensive pairing, while Jack Grealish will likely struggle to crack a starting role on the road. Jordan Ayew had shown signs of improvement while Amautovic has been their best player this season. Everton will be looking to build on some solid recent performances, with Deulefeou forming an outstanding relationship with Lukaku. Stones should be able to control a Villa side lacking penetration.
Verdict: Everton to win at 11/20, with Lukaku dominant.
Norwich City 25/4
The Jose Mourinho saga has really brought a tinge of shame upon a proud football club that were European champions not too long ago. There is something almost Shakespearean about his downfall (Macbeth if you will), with his raging pride serving to oversee a gigantic fall from grace. Norwich at home should be a shoe-in under regular conditions, but there is so little that is regular about this current Chelsea regime. Perhaps the international break gave Mourinho the chance to regroup. Norwich will view this as a free hit, freeing Alex Neil’s side up to express themselves slightly more than they would normally have done. Hoolahan and Redmond will be given license to accost Chelsea’s flanks at any moment.
Verdict: Chelsea to win at 4/10. Perhaps an ugly, deflected Willian free-kick will be the thing that’s separates the sides.
Manchester City 6/10
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Sunday 22 November
West Ham 19/4
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Monday 23 November
Crystal Palace 5/10
Palace were excellent at Anfield, using their considerable counterattacking pace to catch Jurgen Klopp’s side unawares. Sako and Bolaise were devastating, while Puncheon consistently threatened when cutting in from the right-hand side. Delaney and Dann have also become one of the more consistent centre-half combinations in the league. Sunderland would be envious of any centre-half combination at present. Their season- even more so than Villa- has been beset by defensive folly. Defoe, Borini and Fletcher have goals in them for sure, but Sunderland can’t continue to make shocking errors in defence.
Verdict: Total Goals over 2.5 at 17/20- This one is set up to be quite open, with Sunderland’s defensive woes coupled with a possible surge in Palace confidence after that Liverpool win.