Written by Damian Kayat for Hollywoodbets.
Considering that this is the year of the unpredictable, it’s rather surprising that Leicester City’s title charge has gone as smoothly as it has thus far. Claudio Ranieri’s side have started to resemble George Graham’s famed Arsenal side, whom so assiduously ground out 1-0 victories to the roars of ‘boring, boring Arsenal’. Foxes fans will no doubt take painstakingly dull performances that yield three points from here on in. A trip to struggling Sunderland will present its own obstacles, while Arsenal face a daunting trip to high flying West Ham.
The match of the weekend pits title contenders Spurs against flagship Premier League side Manchester United. Louis Van Gaal’s sides are not just aiming to be spoilers: their own European dreams hinge on an unlikely result at the Lane. This could be a crucial weekend at both ends of the table as the league starts to approach boiling point.
Saturday 9 April
West Ham United 27/10 | Draw 26/10 | Arsenal 19/20
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Watford 24/10 | Draw 23/10 | Everton 11/10
Sanchez-Flores will feel somewhat dismayed by the way his side has capitulated after a start that essentially guaranteed their survival. Ighalo’s goal scoring form has deserted him; while Gomis has started to let those silly errors surreptitiously back into his game. He will need to address this decline soon if his side wishes to shake the second season syndrome in the next campaign. Roberto Martinez‘s side have been frankly poor in this season’s campaign, especially considering the quality at their disposal. If not for Cup progression, Martinez may be feeling considerable heat for their underperformance.
Verdict: Total goals under 2.5 at 7/10 - well I find it hard to discern a winner here, I don’t foresee a goal-fest by any stretch of the imagination.
Swansea City 11/4 | Draw 24/10 | Chelsea 1/1
You have to admire the hustle of Swansea City in the last few months. After a tumultuous campaign that seemed destined for relegation, Guidolini and Alan Curtis have fostered a siege mentality that has seen Swansea grind out results that the likes of Newcastle and Aston Villa can only envy. Chelsea remain unbeaten in the league under Hiddink, having recorded eight wins and seven defeats under the taciturn Dutch boss. Young talent such as Loftus-Cheek and Kennedy have clearly demonstrated the new path for Chelsea, with Antonio Conte’s appointment as manager next season perhaps further motivation for a strong finish in a seemingly thankless finish.
Verdict: Chelsea to win at 1/1 - In their pomp under Mourinho last season, Chelsea’s best performance was arguably their 5-0 victory over a confident Swansea side. I doubt they will reach those heights, but I still see the London club winning.
Southampton 11/20 | Draw 3/1 | Newcastle United 5/1
Rafa Benitez must have a clause in his three-year contract that permits mutiny in case of relegation. His appointment would have made sense half way through the season, when no recognisable improvement was imminent. Newcastle were thoroughly outplayed by Norwich and may have to revert to a more direct approach with Mitrovic leading the line. Southampton’s Ronald Koeman was left apoplectic following the handball appeals against Leicester (although I feel that the right decision was made in both instances). Southampton should have too much quality for a frankly poor Newcastle side.
Verdict: Southampton to win at 11/20 - Mane and Wanyama’s athleticism should be too much for Newcastle to handle.
Crystal Palace 2/1 | Draw 23/10 | Norwich City 27/20
Palace’s eternal quest for victory in 2016 has yet to bear fruit, but an impressive point at West Ham could be the tonic needed to restore some belief at the club. Dwight Gayle’s first goal since January 2015 will give the striker some much-needed confidence while they remain one of the most dangerous sides from set-piece scenarios. Norwich’s back to back victories can be credited largely to Alex Neil’s recognition of the importance of victories. Mbokani offers a serious goal threat while Hoolahan and Redmond are constantly creative. Both sides are fresh off high scoring encounters and I predict Neil’s side may revert to hermetic mode in the wake of consecutive victories.
Verdict: Total Goals under 2.5 at 8/10 - I think that Norwich will suffocate the game and likely make this a tight affair.
Aston Villa 24/10 | Draw 23/10 | Bournemouth 11/10
Doesn’t it seem as if Villa have been stuck on 16 points since Christmas? Their complete inertia should come as no surprise to anyone watching the signs of the last few years. An inept recruitment policy, coupled with schizophrenic notions of footballing identity at the club, has culminated in what we have now. Bournemouth represent the complete antithesis of the failed Villa experiment. On a limited budget, Howe has fostered a never-say-die culture that eschews ego and valorises a distinct, open style of football.
Verdict: Both teams to score- Yes - at 17/20 - Whilst I believe Bournemouth will win, I still can’t see Villa remaining on 16 points forever. Villa should sneak a goal through a set piece while Bournemouth are bound to score.
Manchester City 7/20 | Draw 4/1 | West Brom 77/10
Manchester City’s fantastic rear-guard action in Paris highlighted the importance of Kevin De Bruyne to the side. In a side perpetually weighed down by ego, the Tin-Tin lookalike offers a creative outlet that is unselfish and unerringly consistent. West Brom are notoriously obdurate on the road, but even Pulis will know that this may be a step too far for his pugnacious side. City will have too much pace in wide areas for a West Brom side surely satisfied with securing their league status.
Verdict: Halftime-Fulltime Double- City to win both halves at 17/20 - I predict another 3-0 or 4-0 victory here.
Sunday 10 April
Sunderland 24/10 | Draw 23/10 | Leicester City 11/10
Sunderland’s 0-0 draw with West Brom left the North-East side exceptionally deflated, especially considering the utter dominance they had of possession. Norwich’s victory over Newcastle really accentuated the necessity of some victories for Big Sam’s industrious side; next year’s Tyne-Wear derby looks likely to be on a gloomy Wednesday night with Championship emblazoned on the sidelines. Leicester City’s march towards the title will face fierce opposition from a side fighting for survival. However, it’s Sunderland’s very desperation that could galvanize a Leicester side famed for their counterattacking prowess. Sunderland will feel the pressure of the home support and may be drawn into throwing too many bodies at English football’s quintessential hustlers.
Verdict: The Foxes to win by the odd goal.
Tottenham Hotspur | Draw | Manchester United
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Liverpool 6/10 | Draw 29/10 | Stoke 47/10
Liverpool’s yo-yo progression through the Premier League this season has certainly highlighted the potential of Klopp’s tenure. Stoke probably need a win here to keep up their chances of challenging for a European place. Hughes will feel sickened by the way they surrendered a two-goal second half lead to Swansea City. Stoke have become more accomplished on the road this season, with playmakers like Bojan, Arnauntovic, and Affalay able to hurt sides with limited possession of the football. I do however feel that if Liverpool play with anything resembling the intensity that they did against Spurs, they should settle Stoke’s teetering European chances.
Verdict: Liverpool to win at 6/10.
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