Written by Damian Kayat for Hollywoodbets.
City’s slightly unexpected progression to the semi-finals of the Champions League truly highlights the competitive nature of the Premier League. City are still embroiled in an intense battle for fourth whilst quite comfortably seeing off French champions P.S.G.
Leicester City’s battle with West Ham could turn out to be a veritable title decider for the Foxes. Despite a relatively tough-looking run-in, Leicester will see this as potentially their greatest litmus test going towards that elusive first title.
Spurs travel to Stoke in their seemingly ill-fated quest to catch those belligerent Foxes. Norwich host Sunderland in a match that has equal significance at the opposite end of the spectrum.
So let’s see if the fairy-tale can continue for a Leicester side fast converting those cynical voices that doubt the magic of football.
Saturday 16 April
Norwich City 14/10 | Draw 22/10 | Sunderland 2/1
This game should give us a real strong indication as to the triumvirate departing the hallowed shores of the Premier League. Sunderland are the ones playing catch up and pretty much need a victory here. Norwich would settle for a draw but know that all three points would take them to the brink of survival. Allardyce’s sides are stereotypically stygian entities that aren’t built to chase games. The likes of Cattermole and Rodwell will find it hard to accelerate the pace of the game while Borini continues to struggle in front of goal. Alex Neil will likely keep the game tight, prepared to exploit the likes of Van Aanholt and Kaboul on the counter.
Verdict: Double Chance – Norwich to win or draw at 7/20 – It’s just not in Allardyce’s DNA to chase a game and Norwich should be able to control the tempo of the match.
West Bromwich Albion 13/10 | Draw 21/10 | Watford 22/10
Tony Pulis will have felt aggrieved that all their hard work amounted to nought in their game against City. Rondon’s early exit through injury affected the side’s ability to hold the ball up effectively in advanced areas. Sessegnon and McClean were forced to run the channels while Fletcher sent rapier-like through balls into their paths. It was fairly effective until De Bruyne’s introduction saw them lose a foothold in possession.Watford have seemingly checked out in recent weeks with safety basically guaranteed. Ighalo’s goal count has stagnated at 14, highlighting his importance to Watford’s earlier success.
Verdict: Both sides to score – No at 7/10 – neither side is desperate for a win and both are cautious by nature. I can easily see a 0-0 or 1-0 either way.
Newcastle United 13/10 | Draw 12/10 | Swansea City 22/10
Newcastle’s torrid season was perfectly encapsulated in the second goal they conceded against Southampton. Janmaat was left completely wrong-footed and splayed on the ground by a fairly routine through ball to Dusan Tadic. Their backline is simply not athletic enough to deal with the vagaries of the league. Taylor was hopeless while Shelvey seems to have booked a room in ‘Hotel Regret’ following a series of apathetic performances. Ironically enough, it is his former employers that come to town this week in a game that could truly bury the Geordie side. Sigurdsson has been inspired in recent weeks as Guidolini has slowly collected the points necessary for survival. Just think of the damage that Montero could cause to this side.
Verdict: Swansea to win at 22/10 – I just don’t see Benitez able to motivate this side and can see Swansea virtually relegating Newcastle.
Manchester United 2/10 | Draw 5/1 | Aston Villa 27/10
The extent of United’s demise as a force in English football was embodied in their routine defeat at the hands of Spurs. Van Gaal’s side were toothless and his tactical choices leave me to believe that some masochistic urge has gripped the Dutchman and he wants to get sacked. He brings on Ashley Young – a noted crosser of the ball – and plays him through the middle whilst moving the prodigious talent that is Martial out wide. What? This is not the first incongruous Van Gaal decision thus far this season and quite frankly indicates that a change is necessary at the club. I suppose it’s fortunate for United that Villa – one of the worst teams in Premier League history at this point – visit Old Trafford this season.
Verdict: United to win at 2/10 – Sixteen till they die, Villa will be officially relegated this weekend by an uninspired United, perhaps 2-1.
Everton 13/10 | Draw 23/10 | Southampton 21/10
I never thought I would see the day that Everton fans turn on Roberto Martinez. It’s a sign of the fading significance of the F.A Cup that their continued involvement in the tournament was not enough to assuage the fans. Martinez is a diet Wenger: he overemphasizes attack and seems uninterested in overall defensive cohesion. The fans know that the likes of Lukaku, Barkley and Stones are unlikely to remain at a club in limbo. Southampton are in excellent form and will welcome this trip to a deflated Goodison. Everton’s weakness is in the middle of the park, where the likes of McCarthy and Barry are not athletic enough.
Verdict: Total goals over 2.5 at 19/20 – Mane and Wanyama will slaughter the Everton midfield this weekend, but in Lukaku they have a thoroughbred striker who will definitely keep them in what will be a high-scoring affair.
Bournemouth 24/10 | Draw 23/10 | Liverpool 11/10
Eddie Howe’s side have flown under the radar this season, which is exactly what a newly promoted side wants to be doing as they enter the Premier League for the first time. They have managed to negotiate major injury blows in the process whilst never compromising the attacking aesthetic of the side. Liverpool will understand the dangers facing them this weekend. Bournemouth have more natural pace distributed throughout their side than Stoke City and the absence of Henderson and Can will be felt by Liverpool. Daniels should be able to keep Clyne more honest giving his pace while the likes of King and Grabban provide a constant goal threat.
Verdict: Total Goals over 2.5- I think that Bournemouth’s home support will galvanize the side while Liverpool’s midfield absentees will be felt. That being said, Liverpool have some potent attacking talent and I can see a 2-2 draw or something even more dramatic here.
Arsenal 7/20 | Draw 42/10 | Crystal Palace 75/10
Arsenal’s draw with West Ham has effectively extinguished their desperate title ambitions. Arsenal fans are currently experiencing that strange sense of déjà vu that generally accompanies the latest Adam Sandler film: not again. Gabriel has been a liability at the back while injuries have plagued the side. Palace have picked up four crucial points in their last two game, virtually securing safety for the London side. Adebayor and Wickham are back in circulation, which gives Pardew some options in a striking department that has looked slightly barren at times.
Verdict: Arsenal to win narrowly- Palace will probably nick a goal through a set-piece (just look at Arsenal’s vulnerability against West Ham) but the Gunners should have too much quality at the Emirates.
Monday 18 April
Stoke City 34/10 | Draw 25/10 | Tottenham Hotspur 8/10
I was extremely disappointed in Stoke’s performance at Liverpool. Missing both Can and Henderson in the midfield, Stoke had the opportunity to really stake a claim to European football through their strength across the park. Spurs were resplendent against United and underlined their status as perhaps the best footballing side in the country this season. The absence of Arnanutovic is a real headache for Hughes, with Crouch looking depleted in last week’s game. Affalay may also be relegated to the bench while Sheqiri looked deadly at times. Ultimately, however, Spurs are just looking too good at both ends of the pitch.
Verdict: A Spurs win- Alderweireld and Verthongen can deal with the Stoke threat while Kane and Alli do the rest.