Written by Damian Kayat for Hollywoodbets.
A busy week of football awaits the Barclays Premier League, with two games in a week coming in the wake of the 3rd round of the F.A.Cup This is that time of year where managers really have to tinker skilfully with the parameters of their respective squads, when balancing league and cup concerns becomes a question of risk and reward. The unrivalled game of the week sees current leaders Arsenal travel to the schizophrenic entity that is Liverpool Football Club. Other mouth-watering encounters see The Foxes travel to White Hart Lane in a repeat of their 3rd round F.A Cup clash while West Ham travel to Bournemouth in what could be another sleeper hit. Villa’s dismal season may come to a head with their own home support turning against them following their 1-1 draw with lowly Wycombe. They simply have to win against Palace, not the easiest feat considering the away form that has defined Pardew’s side.
Newcastle United 37/10
Manchester United 15/20
Newcastle’s miserable season was further compounded by Cup defeat to Watford at the weekend. To tell you the truth, even when they did win those consecutive games you had the feeling that Newcastle were treading water somewhat. Man United barely scraped through against a hugely spirited Sheffield United side. Wayne Rooney’s late penalty did little to diminish the sense of dissatisfaction that has come to define the side. Furthermore, Bastian Schweinsteiger looks to have done himself a mischief and will likely miss this game.
Verdict: Total Goals Under 2.5 at 7/10: I expect a 1-1 draw or perhaps a 1-0 victory either way, but I can’t see these two sides to produce three goals.
West Ham United 26/10
Eddie Howe has looked to be pro-active in the transfer market, on the brink of completing a ten million pound deal former Arsenal youth prodigy and present Wolves hitman Benik Afobe. Howe’s side impressed on their trip to Leicester, exuding the exact level of professionalism and commitment that has seen them defy so many odds. Slaven Bilic’s side were excellent against Klopp’s Liverpool, with Andy Carroll getting one back over his former employers. Lanzini and Payet make an excellent creative partnership which should cause Bournemouth problems.
Verdict: West Ham to win at 21/20: While I don’t quite expect a 4-3 game like the reverse fixture, I do expect a flurry of goals. Ultimately I see West Ham continuing their excellent away form.
Aston Villa 19/10
Crystal Palace 29/20
Villa’s performance against Wycombe did little to quell the enormous sense of uncertainty that has come to be associated with the reign of Remi Grade. Unbelievably he has yet to win a game in charge, with Micah Richards involved in unsavoury exchanges with disgruntled fans after the 1-1 F.A Cup draw. Jack Grealish has also been side-lined with tonsillitis, limiting the midfield options at Garde’s disposal. Palace will likely still be without Sakho, while Bolasie and Puncheon continue to be their major threats. Pardew has made it clear that a striker is very much the major target in the transfer market.
Verdict: Total Goals under 2,5 at 6/10: Villa struggle to score more than one goal in a game, which leads me to believe this could be another tight affair.
Stoke City 19/20
Norwich City 3/1
Stoke City’s defeat at West Brom exemplified the level of inconsistency that has plagued the Potters this entire season. Mark Hughes’ side tend to perform better against fancied opponents, ironically being outmuscled by some of the more pragmatic sides. Arnanutovic and Sheqiri have injected some vigour to the attack, but you feel that Hughes’ side is dying for a dynamic defensive midfielder. Tetty has been hugely influential for the Canaries in recent weeks, proving far more effective than the slightly cumbersome Cameron Jerome. Hoolahan and Howson are going to be critical in Norwich’s quest for Premier League survival.
Verdict: Both teams to score -no- at 8/10: I expect an extremely tight game that may be determined by a one-nil scoreline either way.
Watford were rather unfortunate to not at least get a point from the City game last time round. Ighalo was magnificent leading the line, leading to speculation that the formidable Nigerian may be on his way out of the club. Southampton’s dreadful run continued with a horrible performance at Norwich that has seen them plummet down the table. Ronald Koeman has vaguely threatened the club’s owners that he needs more players to work with in the transfer window. There is a stagnant feeling about the composition of the side, with rumours that key players Mane and Wanyama could well be leaving St Marys.
Verdict: Double Chance- Watford to win or draw at 8/10: I can’t see Watford losing this game giving the complete lack of confidence at Southampton at present.
Manchester City 9/20
Manchester City host Everton in what should be an exciting League fixture, especially if their open Capital One Cup First leg encounter was anything to go by. City will be glad to be back at the Etihad, where they have looked every bit the top European side that they intend on becoming. Everton will be focusing on securing the future of Romelu Lukaku amidst speculation that the player could be on the way to either Real Madrid or P.S.G. I feel like they will be stretched at the Etihad on a slightly more open field. Their defensive midfield area is a concern when faced by the likes of De Bruyne and Toure.
Verdict: City at 9/20: The Sky Blues should win this one comfortably, as the powerful Saudi-backed side begin to flex their considerable muscle.
West Brom Albion 7/1
Guus Hiddink has brought back the semblance of a feel good factor to Stamford Bridge, managing to elicit some positive performances from the maligned figure of Diego Costa. West Brom were typically bullish against Stoke, despite absences due to injury and suspension. Pulis has the almost otherworldly ability to extract the most positive performances from his side when they are at their most vulnerable. He won’t fear the trip to Chelsea, but I fear that he may run into a resurgent beast this weekend.
Verdict: Chelsea to win at 4/10: Costa has started to concern himself with footballing matters again while the absence of Hazard has brought out the best from Willian and Pedro.
Swansea City 7/10
Having been unceremoniously dumped from the F.A Cup this weekend, Swansea can now focus firmly on Premier League survival with Alan Curtis at the helm till the end of the season. They need to re-establish the almost telepathic link that existed between Gomis and Shelvey. Shelvey seems to have regressed after being correctly called up to the England squad. Sam Allardyce’s men picked up a morale-boosting win over Villa last time out, a result which saw Jermaine Defoe return to typically effective form. Jermaine Jens’ goal was not quite enough to see them through in the Cup against Arsenal, but Allardyce will be under no false illusions as to what his priorities are.
Verdict: A Sunderland away win at 4/1: Sunderland are more direct that the Swans and should be able to get some change on the flanks through Van Aanholt and Jones.
Tottenham Hotspur 7/10
Leicester City 37/10
Little credence should really be giving to the Cup game on Sunday, with both sides fielding dramatically diminished line-ups. Spurs have been impressive this season, finding a balance between expansion and air-tight defensive cohesion. Harry Kane’s goal-scoring exploits have helped elevate Spurs to potential top four candidates. Jamie Vardy’s likely absence from this game due to injury could prove costly to a Leicester side who have failed to score in their last three outings. Leicester will threaten on the counterattack, but I expect Alli and Dier to boss the midfield area, creating a platform for Kane and co.
Verdict: Spurs to win at 7/10: I think this may officially end Leicester’s title bid, I just hope that they can hang on and challenge for the top four.
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