And then there were two. After Manchester City’s failure to notch a single goal against Norwich and Arsenal’s limp exit from the FA Cup, it’s fair to say their title aspirations are over. All that is left is for them to cling to the solace of Champions League football. However, not even that is assured at present. Spurs and Leicester have been consistently the best teams in the league this season and it showed once again this past week. That 14/10 double was a gift – I hope you got on. But enough about the past, lets look forward. We have a full set of fixtures this week and there’s value to be found.
Saturday 19 March
Everton 31/20 | Draw 5/2 | Arsenal 31/20Click the link to see our full preview.
Chelsea 13/20 | Draw 3/1 | West Ham 4/1Chelsea’s season is officially over. The cup exit was the final humiliation in what has been a wretched season for the champions of England. On Saturday they’ll hope to prevent further indignity against West Ham. The Hammers find themselves in with a shot of Champions League qualification and on the verge of a cup semi-final. They’re a side on the up. If they can hold onto Dimitri Payet over the summer, there’s no limit to their possible progress as they start a new chapter at the Olympic Stadium. Slaven Bilic’s side have already dispatched of Chelsea once this season – a 2-1 win at Upton Park courtesy of a late Andy Carroll header. Despite all this, they somehow find themselves at 4/1 to complete the double. Chelsea will be without Diego Costa who faces suspension. The price is too long, get on the West Ham win.
Crystal Palace 2/1 | Draw 22/10 | Leicester 14/10And Leicester go marching on. The early season swagger is gone, but they continue to eek out the results required to keep them ahead of Spurs. Their defence has been miserly in recent weeks, conceding just five goals in their last eight matches. Credit must go to Claudio Ranieri for altering his approach as the season has progressed. He has perhaps learned from the failures of Brendan Rodgers. This week he takes his side to Selhurst Park, where they will have another opportunity to put some pressure on Spurs. However, Leicester have not put together back-to-back away wins since December. While their form at the King Power has been superb, their away record is far less convincing. Palace may not be in great form, but I can see them taking something out of this one. I’m backing the draw at 22/10.
Watford 14/10 | Draw 21/10 | Stoke 21/10Watford’s season seemed to be slowly winding down before their surprise victory over Arsenal at the weekend. Now they have a trip to Wembley to look forward to. It’s been a remarkable season for the Premier League new boys, who still have a chance at a top half finish. Key to that will be victory over Stoke on Saturday. The Potters have secured their Premier League status for another season, but Mark Hughes has done little to push the club forward. They bought in some exciting talents, but their impact has been sporadic. Neither side has been particularly prolific this season, with Watford relying heavily on the form of Odion Ighalo, while Stoke have lacked an out-and-out striker. I got burned last week on backing the unders, but that won’t deter me. It’s Under 2.5 Goals again for me, this time at 6/10.
West Brom 11/10 | Draw 9/4 | Norwich 26/10After huge gains on Friday evening, Norwich did me good and proper on Saturday. Despite boasting one of the worst defences in the league they managed to hold Manchester City to a 0-0 draw. Terrible news for me, great news for Norwich City supporters, although I doubt there are any reading this column. I still fancy them to go down, especially after developments up north, but at least they’re making a fist of it. They travel to the Hawthorns this weekend in desperate need of three points. The Baggies weren’t in action over the weekend, but a run of three wins in five games has seen them climb the table in recent weeks. They’re unbeaten in six at home and have a good record against sides in the bottom half. I’d lean toward a home win at 11/10, but these fixtures aren’t really worth betting on at this stage of the season. Patience is required. There’s better value elsewhere.
Swansea 13/20 | Draw 11/4 | Aston Villa 9/2At one stage this season it looked as though Swansea might be joining Aston Villa in the Championship, but the Welsh club has rallied and are close to confirming their Premier League status for yet another season. Eight points separates them and the relegation zone, but a victory over Villa this weekend will give them the necessary breathing room. They should have no problem. Villa are a club in disarray, with supporters calling for the chairman’s head, a clueless French manager and a group of players who frankly couldn’t care less. Except Micah Richards, I quite like old Micah. That doesn’t change my view though, they’re going down, without a fight. Back the Swans at 13/20 – it may be short but that’s because victory is a certainty.
Sunday 20 March
11/10 Newcastle | Draw 9/4 | Sunderland 5/2It’s not often a Tyne-Wear Derby trumps the Manchester iteration, but this is one of those seasons. Newcastle’s meeting with Sunderland will decide the fate of one of these clubs. The winner will surely go onto safety. The loser, into obscurity. The appointment of Rafa Benitez has changed the complexion of the season somewhat and given his priors with Big Sam, it will certainly add another level of spice to proceedings on Sunday. This fixture has been a notable one for new managers, with Paulo di Canio, Dick Advocaat and Big Sam himself all winning shortly after being appointed. Could Benitez continue the trend? Monday’s showing at Leicester has me believing he could. However, six consecutive Sunderland wins has me thinking otherwise. At 5/2, the away win looks the better bet. So long Newcastle, thanks for the memories.
Southampton 31/20 | Draw 21/10 | Liverpool 18/10The other early kick-off on Sunday sees Liverpool travel to the South Coast to face Southampton. The Reds currently find themselves below the Saints in the table, but with two games in hand. Victories in each of those matches could move the Reds to within striking distance of a top four finish, although that still seems unlikely at present. Liverpool face the short trip to Old Trafford on Thursday night, which shouldn’t have too much of an impact on the outcome of this one. Liverpool are coming into good form, and with their injury worries easing, they could have a strong finish to the season. Adam Lallana has been a revelation in recent weeks, while Roberto Firmino is arguably the form player in the league. Liverpool have won this fixture in each of the last two seasons and are tipped to do so again at 18/10.
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Manchester City 15/20 | Draw 27/10 | Manchester United 36/10
Tottenham 11/20 | Draw 32/10 | Bournemouth 47/10The final match of the weekend sees title-chasing Spurs host Bournemouth at White Hart Lane. The Cherries recorded their third successive victory against Swansea at the weekend to all-but secure their place in the top flight. It’s a massive achievement for the smallest club in the league and one they look set to build on. They have achieved success despite lengthy injuries to their best players, who are slowly returning to action. Max Gradel has made an immediate impact since his return, and could trouble Spurs this weekend. The match should be a lot closer than the last time these sides met. On that occasion a Harry Kane hat-trick helped Spurs to a 5-1 victory. I still fancy the home side to get up, although 11/20 is a bit short for my liking.
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