EPL: Week 29

Written by Damian Kayat for Hollywoodbets.

The battle for the title took yet another quizzical turn this week as Leicester seemed to stumble at home to West Brom, only to find themselves gaining on all their league rivals following a Wednesday decimation of all their title contenders. As far as North-London derbies go, they are unlikely to ever come much bigger than Saturday’s early kick-off at White Hart Lane. One feels that Arsenal can’t afford to drop any more points in quest of a title that by rights was theirs for the taking. The relegation battle seems to be becoming more crystallized as some breathing room has opened up and stranded the bottom four sides in a precarious state of purgatory.

Saturday 5 March

Tottenham Hotspur 27/20 | Draw 7/2 | Arsenal 19/10

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Swansea City 19/20 | Draw 5/2 | Norwich City 29/10

Guidolini’s absence through illness on Wednesday night allowed Alan Curtis to get nostalgic and take control in the Swan’s dugout. His side managed to pull one of the surprises of the season and give themselves a six point buffer above the drop zone. Gylfi Sigurdsson’s wicked deliveries caused problems the whole night while Gomis proved and able and willing worker up front. Norwich are in freefall and quite frankly need a point here. Nathan Redmond tried everything within his power to get his side back in it against Chelsea, but I can’t remember the last time this side gave a cohesive team performance.

Verdict: Swansea to win - Norwich just seem like a devastated force- ever since that crucial 5-4 defeat to Liverpool. Swansea will out-pass them and take a big step towards safety.

Southampton 11/20  | Draw 3/1 | Sunderland 5/1

Southampton’s recent resurgence in form - emanating largely from the Herculean efforts of Frazer Forster - has been halted somewhat in the last week. Forster has looked slightly uncomfortable at crosses while the proposed partnership of Long and Austin has yet to rarely find any traction. Sunderland were thankful for a wonder strike from mercurial Italian marksman Fabio Borini as they picked up a battling point against Palace that has kept them hovering just above the drop zone.  I expect Big Sam to batten down the hatches and go into full bus-parking mode. Southampton are a far more fluid side and I expect Big Sam to hope for brief counterattacking forays.

Verdict: Double Chance - Sunderland to win or draw at 13/10 - I just have a feeling that Big Sam’s side will be able to get something in full hermit mode.  

Newcastle United 31/20 | Draw 23/10 | Bournemouth 16/10

Newcastle’s dreary defeat at Stoke lacked any of the vigour and passion that one would expect from a side battling for survival. Mitrovic strikes me as a Championship level player, while Wijnaldum has gone dramatically off the boil since an early season goal blitz. Bournemouth’s achievements this season are easy to underestimate in the wake of Leicester’s genre-bending assault on the league hierarchy. But what Eddie Howe has managed to achieve on a limited budget with Infinite passion is remarkable. Benik Afobe has been scoring crucial goals, while the likes of Ritchie and Harry Artur have been remarkably consistent. They have plenty of pace in the likes of Daniels and King, and I can’t see Newcastle being able to match their intensity in all parts of the field.

Verdict: Total goals over 2.5 at 9/10 - While I fancy Bournemouth on a gut level, I think that perhaps favouring an open encounter would be more prudent. Newcastle have to win while Bournemouth’s recent string of results will give them the freedom to play more expansively.

Manchester City 1/5 | Draw 11/2 | Aston Villa 13/1

The rollercoaster ride that is managing Manchester City took an alarmingly sudden vertical plunge as they were absolutely ripped apart by Klopp’s enigmatic Reds side. Raheem Sterling should never have played from the star while their midfield looked like dinosaurs next to Liverpool’s dynamic and interchangeable formation. They are fortunate that they are at home against a side with absolutely no confidence and no hope of survival. The anaemic manner in which Garde’s side have surrendered goals points to fundamental issues that any manager would have found difficult to resolve.

Verdict: Halftime-Fulltime Double - City to win both halves at 6/10. This could be nasty as a wounded City aim to bounce back.

Everton 7/10 | Draw 7/2 | West Ham United 37/10

What an exciting looking fixture this one looks set to be. West Ham are flying high in the league, laying claim to a European berth than looked far more within Everton’s grasp at the start of the season. Everton routed a poor Villa on Tuesday, with Lukaku and company proving once again that they are a persistent and reliable attacking force. But as with most Martinez sides, there seems to be an imbalance between attack and defensive responsibilities. West Ham’s Antonio is on fire in front of goal while Dimitri Payet continues to dazzle. I just think that Everton’s array of attacking talent will be able to pick up the three points against their European rivals.

Verdict: Everton to win at 7/10 - Look for Deulefeou to keep Cresswell quiet on the left and for Lukaku to give West Ham a taste of their own medicine.

Chelsea 5/10 | Draw 33/10 | Stoke City 57/10

The recent Chelsea revolution is finally starting to resemble the Chelsea behemoth that dominated the league last year. Why it took this long to occur is question for the philosophers to ponder. Mark Hughes has benefitted from a mostly fit squad and some consistent selection. Arnautovic and Sheqiri have been inspired, with Bojan and Affelay able to add a deft touch in midfield to complement their attacking impulses. Stoke will benefit from the fact that Chelsea have a mega match against P.S.G to consider next week.

Verdict: Double Chance - Stoke to win or draw at 15/10 - Stoke are in positive form and should be able to get something against what will be a slightly weakened outfit.  

Watford 19/10 | Draw 9/4 | Leicester City 29/20

Watford were made to rue a host of missed opportunities as United punished them in the 83rd minute this week. Ighalo was particularly wasteful while Deeney was excellent once again in linking the game. Leicester City probably thought that they had finally slipped up this week. They were excellent against West Brom, doing practically everything possible except scoring the winning goal. King came into the midfield and did well- even if they did miss Kante’s full-throttle defensive work at times. Mahrez was at his slippery best and I think will prove key against a Watford midfield that can sometimes look slightly static.

Verdict: Leicester to win at 19/10 - Leicester will be back in familiar territory, being able to play on the counterattack as Watford aim to secure their safety with a win.

Sunday 6 March

Crystal Palace 5/2 | Draw 23/10 | Liverpool 11/10

Crystal Palace are probably wondering what they have to do to actually win a game these days.  They utterly dominated Sunderland and it took a wonderfully unconventional strike from Borini to deny Pardew’s side. He will be delighted by the sudden awakening of one Connor Wickham. Where it came from I don’t know. Liverpool were outstanding on Wednesday, probably leading to a sense of frustration amongst Liverpool fans who can’t quite figure out the riddle that is Liverpool. Liverpool will have one sneaky eye on that crucial Europa League tie with United, which may just give Palace a sniff.

Verdict: Double Chance - Liverpool to win or draw at 1/4. 

West Bromwich Albion 3/1 | Draw 7/2 | Manchester United 9/10

Tony Pulis’ side have defied common logic recently and become more open in the last few games, conceding two goals in each but still picking up four points. Berahino, Sessengong and Rondon form a fairly pacey and formidable front three. They have issues in the back four without Brunt, with what looks like four central defenders lining up at the back. They will be without Yacob this week, which will encourage Juan Mata to push forward. Martial and Depay will worry Albion with their pace while Albion present challenges at set pieces.

Verdict: Both sides to score- Yes-at 21/20: United will likely concede from a dead ball at some point while Albion will get exposed for pace.

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