EPL: Week 15 Preview

 Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.

Jamie Vardy’s achievements at Leicester have permanently signed this season of the Barclays Premier League into the modern lexicon. You can’t help but admire the little foxes that could, and they will be optimistic with a trip to a struggling Swansea this weekend. There are no huge encounters this weekend, which sometimes puts more pressure on clubs to ensure they don’t get left behind in the high-pressure fight for the top four. This weekend could  prove to be do or die for both Steve McClaren and Villa’s hopes for survival. McClaren is increasingly looking like Wallace without his Gromit while Remi Garde knows that five points will just not suffice for long. This is the first round of fixtures in a crazy December that could come to define many team’s seasons.

Saturday 5 December
Stoke City 4/1
Draw 29/10
Manchester City 13/20
Stoke City’s disappointing defeat to Sunderland was largely offset by a position in the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup. Mark Hughes’ has nurtured a squad that actually has the resources to deal with the rigorous demands of the English football season. City likewise secured their own spot in the semi’s, which came on the back of a necessary return to league form against Southampton. Pellegrini will likely have both Hart and Kompany back from injury. Kompany’s continued partnership with Otomendi will almost certainly be one of City’s most important combinations this year. De Bruyn and Sterling have been in excellent form while Silva proved talismanic against Hull on Tuesday.

Verdict: I’m going for a bold Halftime - Fulltime double - Draw in the first half and City to win the second at 33/10.  

West Bromwich Albion 7/2
Draw 5/2
Tottenham Hotspur 8/10
Here’s a match that pits two of the league’s upwardly mobile sides against each other. Tony Pulis’ side continues to defy my expectations, with the phlegmatic Englishman performing miracles of squad alchemy on a weekly basis. He has remarkably managed to do this without becoming overly reliant on want-away star Saido Berahino - likely in a mastermind attempt to deflate club interest. And Spurs were the very club that sought to destabilize Berahino. Apparently this had little to do with Pochettino and is a mere microcosm of the business practices of one Daniel Levy. In any event, expect no love lost in this encounter.

Verdict: Spurs at 8/10. A year ago, I may have been swayed by West Brom’s form. But a returning Alli should help galvanize Spurs to another crucial victory.

Watford 21/20
Draw 5/2
Norwich City 5/2
Watford’s slow-burning start to the campaign has picked up some irrefutable steam in recent weeks, with Ighalo and Deeney continuing to champion the seemingly outdated two striker option.Norwich steadied the ship with a gutsy draw against Arsenal. Redmond and Hoolahan are doing their best to provide Jerome with service, but one can’t help but feel there is a serious lack of attacking options at O’Neil’s disposal. I don’t think that Norwich will underestimate Flores’ side, having spent their promotional campaign trading blows with them.

Verdict: Norwich Double Chance at 7/10 This is a tough one, but I’m going for a slight surprise and favouring Norwich. I will go for the Double Chance with a draw or Norwich to win, purely on the basis of their steely performance against Arsenal and their familiarity with the opposition.

Swansea City 31/20
Draw 47/20
Leicester City 31/20
You get the impression that this is do or die time for Garry Monk. Quite frankly, I think it’s rather shambolic that his job should even be considered under scrutiny. It’s as if the Swansea elite have forgotten that not more than five years ago they were still a Championship side craving their first taste of Premier football. Their big issue is strikers. Gomis has lost his goal-scoring touch, but it’s not as if they have an alternative. Michu and Bony have departed, leaving the Swans overly dependent on a misfiring striker. On the other side of that coin is Leicester, whose overreliance on Jamie Vardy has paid off handsomely.

Verdict: Leicester to win at 31/20 - The Swans seem created for Leicester’s counterattacking strength and will struggle to penetrate with their laboured possession.
Southampton 9/20
Draw 31/10
Aston Villa 57/10
Isn’t this just the ticket for a side humbled at home in the Capital One Cup? Villa’s league total of five points is quite astonishing, especially given the amount of money the club actually spent in the transfer window. Remi Garde has to get pragmatic and play Gestede up front. Southampton just need a positive performance to get some momentum back following a rather humbling defeat at the hands of Liverpool midweek. The crowd at St Mary’s are seldom witness to such a thorough lesson in humility and Koeman knows that he can ill afford a negative result here.

Verdict: Double Chance - Villa to win or draw at 15/10. I see Villa picking something up here following Southampton’s dreadful midweek result.

Manchester United 9/20
Draw 33/10
West Ham 62/10
Lanzini has stepped in as the heir apparent to Dimitri Payet in the creativity stakes. He could prove crucial in offsetting Payet’s substantial loss. Elsewhere, the Hammers seem a fairly settled unit that still offer plenty of bite on the road. Moses and Sakho, in particular, have the ability to hurt United should they slip up defensively. United’s regimental progression this season has attracted criticism from many quarters. Memphis needs to start delivering on the massive investment put in him while Martial has gone considerably off the boil since his early 'Player Of The Month' performances. In my opinion, United need to attack games such as these and perhaps forego the two sitting midfielders.

Verdict: Man United at 9/20 - United will win if they seize the opportunity and actually express themselves. West Ham have vulnerabilities and this may prove a watershed victory for United.

Arsenal 1/4
Draw 47/10
Sunderland 10/1
Sam Allardyce has identified alarming defensive frailties as the single greatest cause of Sunderland’s recent perils. He has adjusted the side, instructing Van Aanholt and Jones to focus more rigidly on their defensive duties. He has also recognized that both Defoe and Fletcher are nigh on anonymous playing up front alone, devising a system to incorporate the two natural goal-scorers into the same side. It doesn’t seem like rocket science, but then again, Big Sam has never claimed to be a rocket scientist. Arsenal have the Sanchez injury issue to assimilate to but should still be too strong for Sunderland at the Emirates.

Verdict: Arsenal to win at 1/4

Chelsea 4/10
Draw 37/10
Bournemouth 62/10
Chelsea look to be slowly recapturing a semblance of normality in their somewhat troubled identity. Diego Costa’s continued travails with Mourinho have had the media abuzz with rumours of a mammoth rift. Mourinho will need the Brazilian back on board and in goal scoring form if they wish to retain their faint hopes of Champions League qualification. Bournemouth have responded to their crazy barrage of crippling injuries by adopting a seemingly more cavalier approach to their football in recent weeks. You have got to admire their chutzpah, but one wonders when the dam wall will well and truly break. This may just be the weekend.

Verdict: Chelsea to win comfortably at 4/10

Sunday 6 December
Newcastle United 4/1
Draw 29/10
Liverpool 13/20
Liverpool’s resurgence under Klopp is officially a real thing now. They have won pretty - against City - and they have won ugly- think Swansea. A winning mentality has been instilled in the club, with various players undergoing radical transformations. Emre Can has been the most remarkable one, going from a bits and pieces player under Rodgers to some arch-playmaker under Klopp. Newcastle have been dreadful, with seriously overpaid players delivering consistently insipid performances. They have even recalled on loan defender Williamson due to the severity of their crisis. Liverpool have shown vulnerability to athletic players such as Sissokho and Wijnaldum before, but this Newcastle side is just plain shot for confidence.

Verdict: Halftime - Fulltime Double - Liverpool to win both halves at 1/1.

Monday 7 December
Everton 1/1
Draw 5/2
Crystal Palace 26/10
As abysmal as Newcastle were, you have to hand it to Palace for the style in which they savaged the Magpies. Connor Wickham has found a new lease of life at Palace, skilfully protecting the ball and bringing in the likes of Zaha and Bolasie. Cabaye continues to shine in the midfield, proving one of the masterstroke signings of the summer. Everton have scored 15 goals in their last four matches, guaranteeing themselves a Capital One Cup Semi-Final berth in the process. Deuleofeu reminds me of Hazard last season, taking on players with his fearsome pace and dribbling abilities.Lukaku has been outstanding while Coleman and Baines are now back in circulation.

Verdict: Total Goals Over 2.5 at 15/20 - While I fancy Everton, perhaps a more bold move will be touting this as a likely goal fest. Both sides are coming off the backs of six-goal thrillers and this could be a spectacle.

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