Arsenal’s title ambitions took a blow this weekend with a devastating loss to arch rivals Manchester United. They looked as if the Barcelona game had saturated them of energy, with the likes of Ramsey and Sanchez devoid of inspiration. They will welcome the visit of a struggling Swansea to try and restore some confidence. City’s victory in the Capital One Cup will give them confidence going into yet another clash with Jurgen Klopp’s Reds. Leicester City’s fairy-tale ride through the Premier League looked in real danger of losing some momentum last weekend, only for the canny Foxes to salvage an unlikely win in the 89th minute. This could be a vital set of midweek fixtures as the season fast approaches fever pitch.
Tuesday 1 March
Sunderland 15/10 | Draw 21/10 | Crystal Palace 19/10Sunderland’s precarious league position makes this something of a must-win game for Big Sam. Palace are the worst team in the league going on recent form and seem incapable of keeping a clean sheet of late. Speroni and Hennessy have both had their issues in goals while Emmanuel Adebayor doesn’t seem to be match fit as of yet. Sunderland need to watch out for the pace of Zaha and Bolaise - which could prove to be an area of the game where Palace may get the upper hand.
Verdict: I’m going for a surprise away victory, with Palace able to find traction on the flanks.
You have got to feel for Alex Neil in the wake of that defeat to Leicester. You can argue that they had the better of the chances, with Cameron Jerome missing an absolute sitter in the first half. Redmond provided thrust from midfield but it’s in the final third that Norwich seem to dissipate. Chelsea have yet to lose in the league under Hiddink and are on a serious upward curve. Oscar has finally started to play again while Hiddink has actually discovered a footballer in John Obi Mikel.
Norwich City 4/1 | Draw 29/10 | Chelsea 6/10
Verdict: Chelsea to win - Chelsea are starting to pick up momentum and should have too much quality for Norwich.
Leicester City 13/20 | Draw 28/10 | West Bromwich Albion 9/2
Leicester City played their get out of jail free card this weekend and will be hoping for a more comprehensive display this week. Norwich had some excellent opportunities as Leicester predictably battled to break down a side when they dominated the possession. Schlupp may come in for Fuchs following a dynamic reintroduction to the side on the weekend. West Brom had an excellent win this weekend and also prefer to play on the counterattack. This should make for a tantalizing cat and mouse game that should favour Leicester giving the electrifying pace of Vardy.
Verdict: Leicester to win - Leicester should be able to draw inspiration from their last ditch heroics against Norwich and get another vital three points.
Bournemouth 18/10 | Draw 2/1 | Southampton 15/10Bournemouth’s rags to riches story has truly captivated audiences the world over. The manner in which they have dealt with a slew of critical injuries has been something to behold. Benik Afobe has provided a nominal target man for the side while the likes of Daniels and Stanislas give the side pace and movement. Southampton were the form side going into the weekend and will probably feel slightly aggrieved that they never got anything from the game. Southampton will likely boss possession while Bournemouth bank on swift counterattacks.
Verdict: Bournemouth to win - I expect Bournemouth’s fanatical home support to see them across the line against a Southampton side that tends to win and lose games in clusters.
Aston Villa 37/10 | Draw 26/10 | Everton 15/20
Aston Villa’s quest for an unlikely relegation escape was handed a cruel blow with defeat at Stoke. There are murmurs of discord in the Villa camp, with their first team apparently losing to their youth side in a practice match. The appointment of Remi Garde struck me as naïve and Villa are now suffering for it. There seems to be a lack of discipline at the club that a more demonstrative manager may have sorted out. Everton’s enigmatic season is hard to define. At their best they look one of the best attacking units in the league. But there’s always a sense that they can concede at any moment. Robles has been excellent in goal, leading me to believe that he may succeed Howard as Everton number one.
Verdict: Everton to win - Villa are dejected and Everton’s pace on the counterattack will really seal their fate.
Wednesday 2 March
Stoke City 9/10 | Draw 24/10 | Newcastle United 32/10
Steve McLaren will be relieved that none of their relegation rivals stole a march on them this weekend when the Capital One Cup saw their fixture rearranged. Stoke have managed to click again in recent weeks, with Affelay and Bojan proving instrumental in their recent upsurge. Newcastle have issues in defence, with Coloccini’s injury coming at a terrible time for the Magpies. They will likely be without Mitrovic through injury this week as well. Townsend hasn’t exactly hit the ground running while Jonjo Shelvey has never been what one would call Mr Consistency.
Verdict: Total goals over 2.5 - Both of these sides have shown defensive frailties at times and this game should be no different.
This London derby sees two upwardly mobile sides go toe to toe for bragging rights. This game has the added frisson of the entire Olympic Stadium furore to give it some added spice. West Ham have an extremely athletic side that boasts pace in various positions. The likes of Moses and Valencia have the ability to get in behind defenders, while Dimirti Payet is the creative fulcrum of the side. Spurs showed that they may indeed have the necessary grit to accompany their quality at the weekend. They hung in against Swansea and managed to convert their dominance into a win through two unlikely goal-scorers: Chadli and Rose.
West Ham United 5/2 | Draw 5/2 | Tottenham Hotspur 19/20
Verdict: Spurs to win - Spurs have been excellent away from home and should be too strong for West Ham.
Arsenal 7/20 | Draw 77/20 | Swansea City 8/1
Arsenal’s propensity to self-implode at the vital part of the season has seemingly come to fruition once again. The decision by Wenger to not start Giroud was slightly perplexing to me. Even though the Frenchman hasn’t been prolific of late, he does link Arsenal’s play together in a way that Danny Welbeck can’t. Additionally, Gabriel was poor in the heart of defence, with poor decision after poor decision once again tainting Wenger’s selection policy. Swansea are hovering dangerously above the relegation zone, with a lack of defensive organization in front of the excellent Fabianski.
Verdict: Halftime-Fulltime Double - Arsenal to win both halves - I expect a backlash from Arsenal, and they should thrive against a side that tries to espouse a similar footballing philosophy to the Gunners.
Manchester United’s victory on Sunday has not only shaken up the dynamic of the Premier League, it has completely rejuvenated a sense of belief in Louis Van Gaal. Van Gaal was on the charm offensive, evidenced by his hilarious mock dive on the touchline. Watford have gone about their business with a sense of maturity that must have been instilled by Flores. They have a dangerous side that is capable of hitting swiftly on the counterattack. Ben Watson and Gomis have improved markedly, while Deeney and Ighalo are the heartbeat of the side. United’s considerable injury concerns are something of an issue, yet it has opened the door to the likes of Rashford. The injection of youth has given United some momentum, highlighting Ferguson’s call for a youth policy of substance.
Manchester United 6/10 | Draw 27/10 | Watford 47/10
Verdict: United to win - Depay has finally started to show some necessary consistency while Lingaad and Rashford have barrels of pace that should be too much for Watford.
*Click here for a full preview
Liverpool 15/10 | Draw 23/10 | Manchester City 18/10
Bet on these matches now at Hollywoodbets.net! Haven’t got an account? Open one here!