Chelsea v Everton
Sunday January 17, 2:00am
Chelsea twice conceded a lead against West Brom to make it three draws out of five since Guss Hiddink took over. The Blues are still dwindling in 14th place, 12 points off Spurs in fourth but clawing back that deficit looks much more likely since Jose Mourinho’s departure. Everton, meanwhile, put in a resolute performance at the Etihad to pick up a valuable point that keeps them 11th and seven points off West Ham in fifth.
James McClean’s late equaliser at Stamford Bridge means that Chelsea conceded two goals (or more) for the 12th time in 21 games this season. They shipped two or more goals just six times throughout 2014/15. Chelsea’s home record this season is W4-D3-L4, with three of those wins coming against current bottom-six sides and the other Mourinho’s customary victory over Arsene Wenger. They’ve kept only three clean sheets in 11 and six of the matches have had Over 3.5 Goals. Last season’s player of the year Eden Hazard is out injured and Chelsea have drawn the last two that he hasn’t started at home – a brace of 2-2 draws against West Brom and Watford – though they managed to beat relegation candidates Sunderland and Villa at home in his absence this season.
Though a point and a clean sheet at City is undoubtedly a good result for Everton, it’s yet another draw for the Toffees – their fifth in eight and 10th in 21 games this season. They’ve had more stalemates than any other side in the division and that’s the main reason they’re not right up there in the European spots. Indeed, six of those draws have come from their 10 away matches this term, with league leaders Arsenal the only side they’ve lost at. Six of their last eight away have had fewer than three goals, with half seeing Under 1.5 Goals including three 0-0s. Their away performances have improved markedly from last term when they lost 10 of 19 games. Draws at Spurs, West Ham and City coupled with a 3-0 win at Southampton in their opening road game represents very solid away form.
Though the results have improved under Hiddink, we’re yet to be completely convinced that Chelsea are back to anywhere near their best. Their wins came against a Sunderland side that had lost 10 of 16 games going into the fixture and were down in 19th at the time and away at a Crystal Palace XI that have performed better on the road than at home this season and were also without key player Yannick Bolassie. Everton have only lost once away from home this term and they look big to get at least a point at the Bridge.
Liverpool v Manchester United
Monday January 18, 1:05am
Despite the fact that these two sides haven’t been competing for titles in recent years, this fixture remains one of the biggest clashes in English football. Their seasons now revolve around achieving Champions League qualification. United are just two points off Spurs while Liverpool are three points further back in ninth. Both teams were involved in 3-3 thrillers in midweek, though Liverpool will be much happier with their point after substitute Joe Allen found a 90th minute equaliser. United, on the other hand, conceded a last minute goal as Paul Dummett rescued a point for Newcastle that left United fans complaining about the result rather than the level of entertainment this time.
It’s been hard to know what to make of Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp as they’ve had a mixed W5-D4-L4 record since the German arrived to much fanfare on Merseyside. He had Liverpool fans dreaming of success once again with wins at Stamford Bridge and the Etihad, but they’ve been brought back to Earth with defeats at Newcastle, Watford and West Ham since then. He also lost his second home game against Palace, who have been excellent travellers this season, as have the Hammers, the only other side to win at Anfield this term.
When United lost three in a row at Bournemouth, at home to Norwich and away at Stoke, speculation concerning Louis Van Gaal’s future at the club, or lack thereof, was rife and he went as short as 1.02 in places to be the next manager to leave his post. Since then, United have recorded their fifth 0-0 of the season at home to Chelsea, beaten a struggling Swansea and that draw at Newcastle. The United hierarchy look set to stick with the Dutchman until the end of the season despite the fact they’ve managed just one win in their last eight although a hefty defeat at the hands of their old rivals could finally put the nail in the van Gaal’s coffin.
United’s away record this season is a mixed W4-D3-L4 – just one fewer away defeat than they suffered throughout the 2014/15 campaign. Seven of the 11 have had Over 2.5 Goals as United have managed only three clean sheets on the road. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Michael Carrick are both doubts for United so Marouane Fellaini looks likely to line up in the centre of midfield. His presence is unlikely to be welcomed by home fans at Old Trafford as their record when he’s started this season is W1-D2-L3 whereas they’ve lost only two of their other 15 games.
Jordan Henderson and Mamadou Sakho returned in midweek to ease Liverpool’s injury crisis but they are still without Phillippe Coutinho. Prior to the Arsenal game, Liverpool had failed to score in four of the last seven he’d missed but Roberto Firmino looked to be in top form and more than compensated for his absence. Arsenal struggled to live with the intensity of Liverpool’s high press for the first 20 minutes or so at Anfield, with the way that United got blown away at the Emirates in the early stages of that game springing to mind. That game remains their sole trip to an established top team this season. Given United’s poor form and their lack of identity under Van Gaal, we think the same could happen here and as a result Liverpool/Liverpool HT/FT appeals. Backing Liverpool -0.25 on the Asian Handicap at 2.02 or at 2.38 are more cautious options but we fancy the longer shot.