English Premier League Season 2016/17 – Week 14
Saturday December 3, 11:30pm AEDT
High-flying Chelsea travel to the Etihad to face a Manchester City side with designs on the visitors’ spot at the top of the Premier League table. Despite Chelsea’s recent form, Man City will be confident in their ability to subdue a side that has beaten them on their own turf just once since 2008.
To call Chelsea the Premier League’s form side would be an understatement. They have now won seven games on the trot in the league, scoring 19 and conceding just one in that time. They have benefited from the red-hot performances of Diego Costa (10 goals in 13 games this season) and the tactical decision to move Victor Moses to wing back, where he has thrived.
Man City’s victory over a spirited Burnley side at the weekend was down largely to the irrepressible Sergio Aguero, who has scored 10 in the 11 matches he’s played for City this season. They are the proud owners of a nine-game unbeaten streak at home, although the last three of these have been draws.
On balance, we think that Chelsea’s incredible recent record gives them the edge over a City side that has performed only fairly well at home recently – consecutive home draws against Everton, Southampton and Middlesbrough will not inspire massive confidence from the Etihad faithful. We recommend laying Manchester City at 2.26.
LAY – Man City at 2.26
Sunday December 4, 2:00am AEDT
Burnley fought hard but were ultimately no match for the class of Man City last weekend, and this weekend they visit Stoke hoping to improve on their desperate away record so far this term. Stoke were the beneficiaries of a Watford own goal at Vicarage Road last weekend, and having lost only once in their last eight matches, they will feel bullish about their chances of keeping Burnley at bay when they return to the Bet365 Stadium.
This weekend sees Stoke stalwart Joe Allen return from a ban, and they will enjoy the presence of the gritty midfielder, who has scored four in Stoke’s last eight games. The continued absence of keeper Jack Butland for Stoke goes some way to explaining the fact that they have kept only three clean sheets in 13 league games this season.
Between the sticks at the other end of the field, Paul Robinson impressed on his return to top-flight football against Man City last weekend after injury ended Tom Heaton’s 142-game run of league starts, but Sean Dyche will be worried by the departure of Dean Marney and Johan Berg Gudmundsson in the first half in that game.
Stoke have put weaker sides to the sword this season: they’ve beaten Sunderland, Hull and Swansea in recent weeks, and Burnley have lost four of the last five road matches they’ve played this season, drawing the other. There have been fewer than three goals in seven of Stoke’s last eight matches and Burnley have only scored one on the road this season, so we back Stoke 2-0 Burnley.
BACK – Stoke 2-0 Burnley at 8
Sunday December 4, 2:00am AEDT
Last weekend, Crystal Palace were on the wrong end of a nine-goal thriller in their match against Swansea, but under-pressure Alan Pardew will be most concerned by the defensive frailties the game exposed for the Eagles. This week they host a Southampton team who knocked Arsenal out of the EFL Cup midweek, and it is no surprise to see the hosts marked as underdogs by the bookies given their recent form.
Six straight defeats for Palace have left them teetering on the brink of the relegation zone in 16th place, and the absence of both Connor Wickham (injury) and Yohan Cabaye (suspension) for this weekend’s clash will not encourage the Selhurst Park faithful. Eight of their last 10 games have seen at least three goals, with 27 goals scored in their last five fixtures alone, but the absence of a clean sheet in their last 18 games explains why their prolific scoring (only the top four have scored more this season) has failed to produce winning results.
At the other end of the spectrum are Southampton, who have netted only 13 times on the campaign so far. Their 2-0 win to dump Arsenal out of the EFL Cup will have instilled some confidence in the Saints, but they tend to be stronger at home and have recorded only two clean sheets in their last 12 road games. Since both of these teams have a habit of leaking goals, Both To Score looks a safe bet at 1.83.
BACK – Both teams to score at 1.83
Sunday December 4, 2:00am AEDT
Sunderland’s back-to-back wins in the run-up to their trip to Anfield were not enough to propel them past a clinical Liverpool side, and they remain marooned at the foot of the league table. This week they host champions Leicester, who were uninspiring in their 2-2 draw with Middlesbrough last weekend and who will be desperate to put clear daylight between themselves and the relegation zone.
Sunderland’s hopes will surely be resting on Leicester’s awful away form this season: they have gone W0-D1-L5 on the road since the start of the campaign. Ranieri stated that he wants his players to recall the pressure they were under and the focus it generated when Nigel Pearson was in charge, and more focus would be a boon for the Foxes, who had to come from behind twice last weekend and only guaranteed a point in injury time.
For the Black Cats, Jermain Defoe has been in fine form, with three in Sunderland’s last four and seven this season so far, but the big problems have come at the other end: they have kept only one clean sheet in their last 14 games, and have conceded first in eight of their last 10.
Neither of these teams has looked at all consistent this season, and while Sunderland have been woeful at the back, Leicester have lacked the attacking incision that was the hallmark of their title campaign last season. As a result, the draw seems like a good bet at 4.
BACK – Draw at 4
Sunday December 4, 2:00am AEDT
West Brom welcome Watford to The Hawthorns in a mid-table clash that could see the hosts apply real pressure to the top six with a win. They fought hard for a point against Hull at the KCOM Stadium, but they will face a sterner test against a Watford side that has recorded a creditable W2-D2-L2 line on the road in the league this season.
Watford will have been deeply disappointed following a 0-1 home loss to Stoke last weekend, and after a rough start to the season, they have generally rebounded well from league defeats: they have not suffered consecutive losses since the end of August. They are facing the prospect of a diminished back line, as Younes Kaboul and Jose Holebas are likely to miss out through injury and Miguel Angel Britos has picked up a suspension. Their lack of attacking power last weekend (only two shots on target all game) will be a concern against a Baggies team that has lost only three times at home in the league against middle-third teams since the start of Tony Pulis’s reign (W5-D3-L3).
West Brom’s physicality and discipline might just edge it for the home side but in those matches against middle-third sides things were often cagey early on as seven of the 11 and the Baggies only conceded the first goal once.
BACK – Half-Time Draw at 2.1
Sunday December 4, 2:00am AEDT
Last week was one to forget for Spurs: they crashed out of the Champions League after Maurico Pochettino put out an extremely inexperienced back four against Monaco, and their unbeaten start in the league came to an abrupt end when they were outdone by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Spurs will want to avoid a repeat of the late drama that gave new Swansea manager Bob Bradley his first victory in the Premier League last weekend, when they beat Crystal Palace 5-4 at home.
Spurs’s unbeaten league run masks the fact that they have been struggling for form across all competitions, with just one win and only two clean sheets in their last 10 games. That being said, they’ve lost only three home games since the start of last season. With that in mind, they will feel bullish about their chances against Swansea, who have not won on the road since the opening day and who have kept only one clean sheet in the last 12 league games.
Swansea have averaged just one goal a game on the road this season, but their players should have taken some confidence from last weekend and key man Gylfi Sigurdsson will want to impress at his former club. There is no real value in backing Tottenham to win at 1.36, but we think that the Swans will have their tails up, and both teams have scored in nine of their last 11 games so back a repeat at 1.95.
BACK – Both teams to score at 1.95
Sunday December 4, 4:30am AEDT
After holding Man United to a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford at the weekend, West Ham were knocked out of the EFL Cup midweek by a much improved Red Devils side, and Arsenal suffered a similar fate against Southampton, albeit whilst fielding a weaker side. The Gunners will be glad to see the back of a month in which they have won just twice in six matches across all competitions, but beating Slavin Bilic’s West Ham side in their first visit to the London Stadium will be no mean feat.
West Ham are unbeaten in their last four home games across all competitions, but they have not won in their last four league games, a record that needs to change if they are to maintain clear daylight between themselves and the relegation zone. This is the first time they’ve faced a top-six side at home this season, and despite the continued absence of Santi Cazorla and the subdued form of Mesut Ozil (who has just one assist on the road all season), they are facing an Arsenal side that have lost only once in the league since March.
Arsenal have scored 13 in their last five road games, and there have been over 2.5 goals in 14 of the last 19 home West Ham games. We think that Arsenal will be too strong for a stuttering West Ham side, but it’ll be a goal-filled encounter: Arsenal and over 2.5 goals looks attractive at 2.55.
BACK – Arsenal/Over 2.5 Goals at 2.55
Monday December 5, 12:30am AEDT
Bournemouth’s defeat at Arsenal last weekend was largely down to a barnstorming performance from Alexis Sanchez, and they will not feel too disheartened about suffering an away defeat at one of the league’s elite. Next up is Liverpool, who are the highest-scoring team in the league this season, and even in the absence of the injured Coutinho and doubts over Firmino’s fitness, they are a force to be reckoned with.
The back pages have been dominated by stories of Liverpool’s rapidly growing injury list, and it is in attack that this will be most keenly felt. Coutinho joins the long-term absentee Danny Ings on the sidelines, and all of Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge and Roberto Firmino face significant question marks over their fitness to play this weekend. Bournemouth have entertained both Arsenal and Chelsea at home this season already and lost by just one goal on both occasions, so they will have no fears about facing another top-four team, especially one stripped of many of its most threatening players.
Jack Wilshere’s return to the starting XI will be welcomed by the Vitality Stadium faithful, and while we can’t see Bournemouth taking all three points we think Liverpool will miss the creativity of their injured players. We’re backing the draw at 4.2.
BACK – Draw at 4.2
Monday December 5, 3:00am AEDT
Neither of the managers on show in this clash has enamoured themselves to the public in the past week, but Jose Mourinho will return to the sidelines after serving a midweek ban for booting a water bottle in Man United’s 1-1 draw with West Ham last weekend. Nevertheless, Everton will fancy their chances of heaping fresh misery on Mourinho’s men this weekend at Goodison Park with a win to leapfrog the Red Devils.
Everton’s record at home has been strong this season: they’ve lost only once across all competitions here, and they’ve not lost at Goodison in the league since March. They have a reasonable record against Man United in the league in recent times, winning four and drawing one of the last ten league match-ups, but the three most recent competitive games between the two sides have all gone United’s way.
Everton have failed to win the first half in any of their last 14 matches and they have conceded first in four of their last five matches, so we like Man United to score first, particularly given their impressive attacking performance in midweek when Henrikh Mkhitaryan again stood out.
Despite this, we think that Everton are value to tie things up. Man Utd have drawn five of their last seven and the Toffees have finished all-square in half their home games against sides that finished between second and eighth in the past two seasons. Back the draw at 3.3.
BACK – Draw at 3.3
Tuesday December 6, 7:00am AEDT
Middlesbrough were unlucky to leave the King Power Stadium with only a point to show for their efforts, and they will fancy their chances against a Hull side that has lost four road games on the spin. Hull will be concerned by their performances in recent weeks: they were lucky to beat Newcastle on penalties in the EFL Cup midweek, and Sunderland romped to a 3-0 win as the Tigers got rolled over two weeks ago.
Middlesbrough have suffered only one defeat in their last five, and that was to a Chelsea side that has conquered all-comers, and they have successfully held both Arsenal and Man City to draws in that stretch. That being said, they have won only once at home in their last six attempts, namely against Bournemouth prior to the international break. They can take some heart from the fact that Hull have conceded 16 in their past five road games.
Mike Phelan may be forced to rush Abel Hernandez back from injury after Mbokani picked up a red card and a ban last time out: they’ve failed to score in seven of the last 11 matches Hernandez has missed and he only resumed light training this week following injury.
All things considered, we think that Middlesbrough will come out on top against the relegation contenders, who lack an eye for goal up top and are low on confidence and form across the pitch. This fixture finished 1-0 to Boro last season, when Hernandez was also out, and we expect a similar result here.
BACK – Middlesbrough 1-0 Correct Score at 6.5