Manchester United v Arsenal
Monday February 29, 1:05am
Manchester United bounced back from the disappointment of their defeat in Denmark against Midtjylland by winning comfortably at Shrewsbury and following the return leg of that Europa League tie they host Arsenal on Super Sunday. The Gunners look set for their customary Last 16 exit from the Champions League after a 2-0 defeat at home to Barcelona and Arsene Wenger could have a tough job picking his side up for this one as they performed admirably for most of the game but two late defensive slips cost them. His Arsenal side remain well positioned in the league, 10 points clear of Man Utd in 5th and just two points behind leaders Leicester heading into this gameweek.
Man Utd’s 2-1 defeat at Sunderland was their fifth in their last 11 Premier League games and they’ve now won only three of their last 13. Their home record this season is W6-D4-L2 as they’ve managed an impressive eight clean sheets. Since Louis Van Gaal joined United, his home defeats have come against Swansea, Southampton, West Brom, Norwich and Southampton while his record against top-four teams at Old Trafford is W2-D3-L0 with a 4-2 win in the Manchester derby last season and a 1-0 win over Spurs on the opening day of this season. Four of these five games had fewer than three goals while United led at the break in three.
Prior to their wins at Bournemouth and at home to Leicester, Arsenal had failed to score in three games at Stoke and at home to Chelsea and Southampton as their title challenge suffered a blip. Their away record this season is W7-D3-L3 with those defeats coming against Chelsea, West Brom and Southampton in a 4-0 thrashing on Boxing Day. Despite that, the Gunners have been decent defensively on the road this term keeping six clean sheets and their record at top-four sides since the start of last season is W2-D1-L1 with that defeat coming against Chelsea last term as they managed to win at the Etihad last campaign and thumped Leicester 5-2 this season.
Indeed, the 2-0 win at City was regarded as something of a turning point for Wenger’s side in the big games as they followed it with a 2-1 win at Old Trafford in the FA Cup, having not won away at Man Utd since 2006/07 prior to that and had a generally poor recent record against fellow top-four teams, with the 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford in 2011/12 and the 6-3 loss at the Etihad in 2013/14 immediately springing to mind, along with a 5-1 loss at Anfield and a 6-0 thumping at Chelsea in the same season.
Arsenal have won two of their last three against the Red Devils in all competitions. In recent seasons they’ve had no problem bouncing back from Champions League disappointment as they’ve won each of their three Premier League games following defeats against Monaco and Bayern Munich, though all of those were at home. However, they were perhaps fortunate to get the win over Leicester and the Barca game showed that their recent struggles are perhaps not over as they squandered some decent chances.
With that in mind, and since United’s home games against Spurs, Man City and Chelsea this season all had fewer than two goals with scoreless draws against the latter two, backing fewer than two goals looks the strongest bet in this one. United are without Rooney, who has been the source of most of their goals recently and with the excellent De Gea likely to return in goal we wouldn’t put anyone off backing the 0-0 at 9.4.
Tottenham v Swansea
Monday February 29, 1:05am
Along with Southampton, Maurichio Pochettino’s side are the form team in the division at the moment having won their last five games, including at Man City in their last fixture. Spurs find themselves in second going into this gameweek, just two points behind Leicester. However, they were knocked out of the FA Cup last weekend and following their Europa League clash with Fiorentina they host Swansea, who have had a decent start under new manager Francesco Guidolin. A 1-0 loss against Saints is their only defeat in the Italian’s first four games in charge as he started his reign with a 2-1 win at Goodison Park. Nonetheless the Swans are precariously placed in 16th, just three points clear of the relegation zone.
Spurs have lost just three of their 26 games this season, conceding just 20 times to give them the best defence in the division whilst their tally of 47 goals is only bettered by Leicester and Man City. Spurs’ home record this season is W7-D4-L2 as they’ve lost against Newcastle and Leicester but only conceded nine goals in their 13 games at White Hart Lane.
Their record against sides between 11th and 17th since Pochettino took over is W5-D3-L3 as Norwich were the only team they beat by more than one goal in this time. Spurs have kept a clean sheet in all four of their games against these teams this season and three of these had fewer than two goals and were goalless at half-time, the exception being that 3-0 win over Norwich.
Swansea have had plenty of time to prepare for this game as they didn’t have an FA Cup tie last weekend after they were shocked by Oxford Utd in the 3rd Round. It took until the 69th minute for Southampton to break the Swans down at the Liberty Stadium in their last game, while they were unlucky to not go two from two on the road under the new manager as West Brom found a 90th minute equaliser after Gylfi Sigurdsson’s 64th minute strike. That was one of five goals that the Icelander’s scored in Swansea’s last seven games and he’ll no doubt be keen to get on the scoresheet against his former club here.
Swansea’s overall away record this season W2-D4-L6, though their only defeat by more than one goal came against Southampton, despite the fact that they’ve already travelled to United, City, Liverpool and Chelsea. Indeed, their record at top-four sides since the start of last season is W2-D0-L3 as they beat Arsenal and United last season and a 4-2 defeat at Stamford Bridge was their only loss by more than one goal.
Spurs have an excellent W7-D2-L0 record against Swansea since their promotion in 2011/12, winning each of their four home games against the Swans in that time with a couple of 1-0’s. However, Spurs’ home record in Premier League ties that have followed a home Europa League clash since the start of last season is W3-D2-L3 as they failed to win any of these games by more than one goal. Indeed, they’ve lost to Newcastle twice at home in this time after a home Europa League clash as well as losing to West Brom and Stoke at home, admittedly after away Europa League ties.
Nonetheless we’re backing an improved looking Swansea side that hasn’t conceded more than once in any of their games under Guidolin to be competitive and perhaps even frustrate Spurs in this one. Pochettino is without Dembele, who’s been a regular starter this season as Spurs have a W11-D7-L1 record with him but are winless in their last four without him, losing at home to Leicester and Newcastle and they’ve only won one of the seven games he didn’t start this term by more than one goal.