Wolves v Crystal Palace
Wolves v Crystal Palace Cheat Sheet
Both of these sides have done well in recent weeks to detach themselves from the mire at the bottom of the Premier League. The rise of both Wolves and Palace has been attributed to a certain extent to the appointment of their current managers, Julen Lopetegui and Roy Hodgson respectively.
Lopetegui has been in the Wolves’ hot seat for a few months now, and there can be no doubt that results have improved, and the improvement has come more in both boxes rather than in general performance. Though Wolves still carry that distinctive Iberian-influenced flavour, the players appear to demonstrate an understanding of how to function as a unit. The pieces fit together all over the pitch and partnerships are becoming established in key areas which are contributing to the (relative) consistency under Lopetegui.
However, it is interesting to observe that despite the obvious improvement in the results and the eye test, the performance data does not back this up. Since Lopetegui’s appointment Wolves are bottom of the expected points table. Even taking a smaller sample since recruitment finished on 1st February, Wolves sit 19th for expected points, only above Nottm Forest.
Crystal Palace sit in a respectable, and fully expected, lower mid-table position for that same time period. For Palace, it is chance creation that has been the most challenging aspect of their game. This is one of the key reasons that Patrick Vieira lost his job, the only surprise really is that Roy Hodgson coming in appears to have freed up the attacking potential somewhat.
Going to Molineux will be a test of Palace’s attacking work though. Wolves’ recent home record spells out that either they win to nil, or they lose. In the last ten matches at Molineux five have seen Wolves keep a clean sheet and emerge victorious, otherwise, they lose and usually concede a few on the way. Concerningly, Wolves are running at a xG difference (xG created – xG against) of -0.5xG. Though game state may have a say in this, i.e. they concede more chances by sitting on a lead, it is still not giving much confidence to back Wolves at home.
Indeed, given Palace’s current form, which includes winning their last two away games with an aggregate score of 7-1, I am more inclined to have them onside at the prices.
The referee for this clash is Robert Jones. Jones is a relatively card-happy referee with an average of 4 yellow cards dished out per Premier League match. He averages 21.95 fouls per match as well, which is above average.
The bookmaker prices for over 3.5 cards looks too skinny for me to add to the bet builder so instead we can take advantage of a fouls line that looks a touch too generous.
Toti Gomes has been entrusted with the left-back position for Wolves’ last four Premier League matches and looks set to continue in that role. He conceded four fouls in his last match, which hopefully won’t put Lopetegui off continuing with him as he is directly up against Michael Olise in this fixture.
Olise is Crystal Palace’s most fouled player when Wilfried Zaha isn’t on the pitch at least. The youngster has superb feet and whilst he isn’t the most likely to carry the ball on the dribble as often as Zaha or even Eberi Eze, he is so skillful that he can whip the ball away as a challenge comes in.
Toti is a generous odds-against price for 2 or more fouls in this match and that is well worth adding to our bet builder.
Continuing on the Michael Olise theme, the Palace wide forward appears to have been encouraged by Hodgson and his coaching staff to unleash his shooting potential a bit more often.
Previously a little inconsistent with his shot volume, the youngster has been firing away in recent weeks. His shots across the last six Premier League matches read 2, 1, 2, 4, 2, 3. As you can see, five matches out of the last six have seen Olise take two or more shots.
Palace are going to see enough of the ball over the course of 90 minutes, unless there is a sending-off or an early goal, for Olise to get the ball in his favoured right half-space and dip in for at least a couple of shots. He is also a free-kick taker, though Palace have a couple of those, but Olise could get a chance from a dead ball as well.
This price seems generous enough to take in this match.
The final recommendation to add to the bet builder is for Marc Guehi to attempt 50 or more passes. As the left-sided central defender Guehi is often the player that Palace build their attacks from. He has an excellent range of passing and it is clear that the rest of the team trusts him to make the correct decisions with the ball.
He smashed through this barrier easily last time out with 65 passes when Palace had 57% possession at home to Everton. Another positive for this bet is that Guehi managed a mammoth 87 passes in the return fixture between these sides, despite Palace only having 51% possession.
We would be expecting Palace to have less of the ball away at Wolves though, so looking at matches in which Palace have been away from home recently Guehi only managed 41 passes at Southampton when Palace had 42% of the ball, but prior to that, his pass numbers read 78, 57, 56, 51, none of which were matches in which Palace dominated the ball.
I think that we will see a fairly even split of possession across the 90 minutes here, and Guehi is pretty certain to play the full game, so this line should be passed fairly comfortably.
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Aston Villa v Fulham
Aston Villa v Fulham Cheat Sheet
Tuesday evening sees Fulham travel to Villa Park in what is a very important game for the home side. Unai Emery has done wonders with the side and whilst Champions League football looks very unlikely now, they remain with a good chance of playing Europa League football next season if they can finish the season strongly. The visitors have little to play for now but still look likely to finish in the top half which would be a very successful first campaign back in the league.
The home side, Aston Villa, changed their manager this season to great effect. Steven Gerrard, who won just two of his 12 league games in charge this season in all competitions was replaced by Unai Emery at the end of October and their results have since improved drastically. When the Spaniard took over, Villa were only out of the relegation zone on goals scored, but he has done an excellent job since. Their 30 points across the last 15 games is bettered by only Manchester City (35) and Arsenal (31). Gerrard was in charge in the return fixture at Craven Cottage and subsequently lost 3-0 so they will be looking for revenge here. Striker Ollie Watkins has been in fine form, scoring 11 times in his last 13 games, also grabbing two assists. Emiliano Martinez was forced off at halftime with a stomach bug on the weekend in the Brentford match, but he should be available here. If not, Robin Olsen will come in to replace him. Philippe Coutinho, Leon Bailey, Boubacar Kamara, and Matty Cash will all miss out, however.
Fulham were flying at the start of the season, and, at the halfway stage, it looked like they had a chance at playing European football next season if they continued their form. However, poor runs of form in January and a run of four consecutive league defeats in March and the start of April saw these hopes fade. Nonetheless, a top-half finish would be a great success for Marco Silva’s men, who many expected to go down once again this season. They have struggled for goals without Aleksandar Mitrovic this season but have managed five in their last two games without him as he serves his fifth game of a seven-match ban here. Layvin Kurzawa will also remain out. However, they will be able to bring Dan James back into the side following his illegibility for the game against Leeds – his parent club. He may replace Bobby Decordova-Reid going forward.
Andreas Pereira has been in fine form for Fulham this season in his first season at the London club. He has played at least 58 minutes in every league game and has scored four goals with six assists – the most goal contributions he’s ever had in a season. He has scored the second-most league goals for the club and has taken the second-most shots in the Premier League for the club. His 60 attempts are dwarfed only by Mitrovic’s 80 and he has had 25 more than Joao Palhinha in third – who has managed just 35.
He has averaged 2.10 shots per 90, with 0.77 of these on target. Across his last six league games, he has had 27 shots, with nine of these on target, and has had at least four in every single one of them. In his last ten league games, this selection has landed nine times. An alternative market is for him to have a shot on target at evens. He has also taken 12 of Fulham’s 14 shots from freekicks and is the only player, bar Mitrovic, to have taken a penalty this season.
The Brazilian had three shots with one on target in Fulham’s 3-0 victory over Villa in October. Last time out, both Frank Onyeka (who played just 45 minutes) and Mathias Jensen had two shots from midfield for Brentford, as did Miguel Almiron in his 35-minute cameo for Newcastle 10 days ago.
John McGinn has become an enormous part of Aston Villa’s team in this excellent run of form. Since the 18th of February, he has played all but one of Villa’s minutes – scoring at Chelsea. The Villa captain has also committed plenty of fouls – the fourth most of any Villa player (30) whilst receiving the most yellow cards (5). Since June last year, he has started 34 competitive games for Scotland and Villa, giving away at least one foul in 23 of them. In his last eight starts for club and country, he has committed 15 fouls, with at least one in seven of them. He has also committed at least two in five of them so there is some value in him giving away two free kicks at 13/8.
His likely opponents are Joao Palhinha are Harrison Reed. The Portuguese midfielder has been fouled the most of any Fulham player this season (39), at a rate of 1.41 per 90. His English companion in midfield is fouled at an average rate of 0.67 times per 90. In their last five league games, Roca (4), McKennie (2), Gueye (1), Garner (1), Rice (1), Soucek (1), Lerma (1), Rothwell (2), Partey (1) and Xhaka have been the defensively minded midfielders facing Fulham, with only the Swiss player not giving away a free kick. Five of those ten (Roca, McKennie, Garner, Rice, Lerma) were booked.
Harrison Reed has committed the 5th most fouls of any Fulham this season, 31, with five yellow cards. Per 90 minutes, he averages 1.16 fouls per game and has conceded a foul in his last two. He has played 14 away league games this season, being booked three times for his 15 fouls with this selection landing in nine of them. In the reverse fixture at Craven Cottage, he made one foul.
His opponents here will be McGinn, Dendoncker, and Douglas Luiz. Whilst Dendoncker hasn’t been fouled yet this season, the Scottish midfielder has been fouled 1.84 times per 90 and the Brazilian 1.28 per game. In this great Villa run of form, Luiz has drawn 12 fouls in eight games, being fouled in seven of those matches. The Villa captain has drawn 23 fouls in nine games for club and country, being fouled at least once in all of those matches.
Aston Villa home games have averaged 9.81 corners per game this season, seeing at least ten corners in 44% of them, including in five of their last ten. In their last six home matches, there have been at least 11 corners in three and at least 13 in two of them. In that time, they have both received and conceded 32 corners at a rate of 5.33 per game. Their last six games have seen an average of exactly 12 corners per game with this selection landing in two-thirds of those matches. This is a crucial match and one they need to win, which should see more corners as they need to attack.
Fulham away games have averaged 9.53 corners per game, seeing at least ten corners in two-fifths of them. However, in their last ten matches both home and away, they have averaged 9.90 corners per game, rising to 11.80 across their last five – with this selection landing in four of their most recent five. They have had 33 corners in those five, whilst their opponents have had 26. Whilst Fulham are not fighting for anything at either end of the table, they have seen plenty of goals in recent matches (at least three in six of their last seven) which suggests that their willingness to win and compete has not faded at this stage of the season.
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Leeds United v Leicester City
Leeds United v Leicester City Cheat Sheet
While Manchester City vs Arsenal is the game of this round of fixtures, Leeds vs Leicester promises to be a match with massive ramifications at the bottom of the table, the very definition of a six-pointer. The teams occupy the two positions above the relegation zone and a win for either would be a massive boost to their chances of survival. The mood around Leeds is far from positive, they have lost 4 of their last 5 matches while teams around them improve. The best news for Leeds is that in key matches so far against Wolves and Nottingham Forest, Javi Gracia has guided them to victories, they will need another big result at home here. Leeds are still without Tyler Adams and Stuart Dallas but apart from this they have a full squad to pick from, this is a massive boost for Gracia’s men.
Leicester grabbed a win that could turn out to be pivotal in their last match against Wolves and put in a very strong performance, despite missing a lot of key players. Leicester’s superior goal difference currently keeps them above Everton and out of the relegation zone here and this much better goal difference could be the difference at the end of the season. A Leicester win could only lift them above Leeds but at this point of the season, any points on the board are vital. More importantly, Leicester could drop to 19th if results go against them this weekend. Leicester have a huge number of injuries but Jamie Vardy will definitely be fit while Maddison and Barnes will face late fitness tests to see if they are fit enough to start. Just having all 3 of those players in the squad is great news for Leicester fans and certainly increases their chances of getting a result here.
Brendan Aaronson has quickly made a name for himself in the Premier League this season. The American has been one of Leeds’ best attacking players this season and is also one of their most fouled players. Aaronson draws 2.17 fouls per 90 in his attack midfield position and he attempts to dribble a lot, he attempts 3.91 take-ons per 90. This makes him a dangerous player in what is likely to be a nervy and tense match. Dean Smith picked a very attacking line-up in Leicester’s last match with almost a front 4 and I expect him to stick with that here.
Playing with a front 4 as he did puts a lot of pressure on the midfielders to cover a lot of ground and work very hard defensively. This meant the likes of Tielemans had a lot of work to do defensively which therefore led to him committing fouls. Tielemans committed 3 fouls against Wolves as well as 2 fouls in Dean Smith’s first match in charge of Leicester. Tielemans averages 1.42 fouls per 90 and is up against Aaronson, he should commit at least 1 foul here.
While Wolves were only able to create 0.9 xG against Leicester, they still had 16 shots. The reason the xG is so low for that many shots is that Wolves’ average shooting distance was 20.7 yards away from goal, Leicester will try to limit Leeds to long shots in this match as well. With Leicester away from home in this match, I expect them to give up a big number of shots again. Marc Roca has averaged 1.26 shots per 90 this season from an average distance of 23.6 yards out, he’s not afraid to take a long shot.
Marc Roca plays a much more attacking role under Gracia than he did under Jesse Marsch and this has seen his shooting numbers dramatically increase, he has averaged 1.98 shots per 90 under Gracia. In his last 7 games, Roca has had 2 or more shots in 5 of the matches, only failing to do so in big losses to Arsenal and Crystal Palace. Roca’s more advanced role now means he is massively undervalued by the bookmakers at around evens to have 2 shots in this match.
Leeds seem to have an issue defending against opposition left-wingers. Their opposition’s left winger has had a shot on target in 4 of the last 5 matches they have played, only Forest’s left winger failed to do so. After being brought into the starting line-up against Wolves, Patson Daka was excellent at left wing, he had 4 shots with 3 on target. I expect Dean Smith to start him again here after a good performance in the last game.
Daka has averaged 1.35 shots on target per 90, the most of any Leicester player this season. Daka has had a shot on target in 3 out of his last 5 starts and will be full of confidence, I expect him to manage at least 1 shot on target.
Leicester have looked good in their first 2 matches under Dean Smith, they had 4 shots on target against Manchester City and 6 at home to Wolves last time out. Leicester have had at least 4 shots on target in all their last 4 matches and in 9 of their last 14 matches. Leeds have struggled defensively recently, they have conceded at least 4 shots on target in all of their last 3 matches and in 5 of their last 6 matches.
Recent thrashings from Arsenal, Crystal Palace, and Liverpool have created doubts about their ability defensively which seems to be affecting how the team plays on the pitch. Both teams will be desperate for a goal here which might not lead to many big chances but the match should still have a lot of long shots that are easy saves for the keepers. I expect Leicester to have at least 4 shots on target here.
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