Newcastle v Liverpool
Saturday’s early kick-off sees Liverpool kick start a difficult set of 5 league games as they try to hunt down a Man City side just a point clear of them.
It’s incredible that this Liverpool side who have lost once in 2022 (a tie they progressed from anyway) aren’t running away with the Premier League title. This red hot form shows no signs of slowing up as the Reds notched up 3 wins last week by a combined score of 8-0 affording less than 1 xG combined across the 3 games and just 2 shots on target.
As for their hosts today, Newcastle have flown up the table after failing to win any of their first 14 games and look set for a remarkable top half finish. New signings Dan Burn, Trippier, Chris Wood and Bruno Guimares have been key features in this turnaround with the latter taking the plaudits in recent weeks for his goals. Guimares has been used to either anchor the midfield 3 or as a box to box with more creative freedom and his threat could be neutralised today when he is forced to sit back and support a back 4 who will struggle to contain the pace of any front 3 combination Liverpool play.
This game should be fairly one way traffic similar to the reverse fixture where Liverpool had 18 more shots, 11 more corners and 75% possession. BTTS – No is my tip in this game due to Liverpool’s resolute defence matching up well against the Geordies. Newcastle have also kept 3 clean sheets in their last 4 showing how they have prioritised defensive stability in their rise up the table.
Aston Villa v Norwich
The Villains haven’t experienced the taste of victory since early March and the poor form of Steven Gerrard’s side is a concern for the fans. Just a month ago, Villa was destined for a finish in the top half of the table, but now they are sitting 15th, thus getting closer to the relegation zone and are beginning to feel the pressure from below. The unfruitful attack must be a worry for Gerrard as they have scored only once since the international break and haven’t scored at all in the last couple of games. However, Villa ended the five-match losing streak with a goalless draw at the King Power Stadium and the struggling Canaries are up for a visit at Villa Park. Norwich are nearing a return to the Championship as their hopes of staying up are disappearing and just like in Villa’s case, their form is disastrous. The return of Josh Sargent may provide support for Pukki & co. but still it’s hard to expect goals galore in Birmingham. The Canaries registered just two shots on target in their must-win fixture against Newcastle at Carrow Road last week and their last away win dates back to January.
A match of high importance for both sides as Villa can’t afford to lose another match if they want to avoid a stressful end to their season, while every dropped point for Norwich means a relegation confirmation is closer than ever. I expect a tight game with a couple of goals at most given the struggles of their attackers in front of the goal.
Southampton v Crystal Palace
Saints and Palace both come into this game in shaky form and off the back of a point a piece in extremely winnable games. Palace dropped points and failed to score against a shaky Leeds back line while Southampton fought back for a point due to James Ward-Prowse’s world class dead ball ability.
This Saints side once made St. Marys a fortress but then proceeded to lose 4 home games in a row, including defeat to almost relegated Watford with a poor away record. A surprising 1-0 win against Arsenal followed a 6-0 defeat to Chelsea showing how on and off this Saints side are at home. Significantly, Saints lost star youngster and key creative threat Tino Livramento to an ACL injury which will limit Saints fullbacks threat as KWP switches to right back and Perraud steps in. Hassnehuttl utilised a 4-4-2 system until the Chelsea game before switching to a 5 back set up to emphasise the wing back threat which they have now partially lost.
Palace have notoriously struggled to break down a 5 back formation both scoring and conceding under 1 goal per game. Despite this, they have done the double over Wolves this season and only lost to Chelsea and Spurs in a 3/5 back showing their resilience against the wing back threat. Recent form would suggest Palace will struggle today, following dropped points to Leeds, Newcastle and Leicester.
I think this will be a game of fine margins with either side nicking it by just a goal. Palace have failed to score on the road 7 times this season and Saints top scorer in holding midfielder James Ward-Prowse with just 9 goals. I like under 2.5 goals here.
Wolves v Brighton
The Wolves’ hunt for European football next season is on the verge of slipping away from their hands if their form doesn’t improve quickly. Back-to-back defeats without a scored goal leaves them three points away (although with a game in hand) from the 7th place which leads to the Europa Conference League. Bruno Lage can’t be happy with his side’s performances and a chance for redemption may open at Molineux with the ‘draw kings’ Brighton travelling for a visit. The Seagulls boast the joint record with Crystal Palace for most (14) draws in the league. Graham Potter can’t be proud of that because if at least a few of the draws were converted into wins, now Brighton would have been in the chase for European football too. But, they also remain one of the sides with the worst attacking record (31 scored goals in 34 matches) in the league and Potter shouldn’t be too happy with his forwards.
The hosts’ midfield may be boosted by the return of Rúben Neves, while the same goes for the visitors who will welcome back Yves Bissouma after his suspension. Another draw might be on the horizon given the Seagulls expertise for securing a point after a point, but I don’t expect Wolves to lose. Bruno Lage and his players will be determined to get near the 7th place and put pressure onto West Ham, but they will need Jimenez & co. to finally put one in the net as they remain the lowest scoring side (33 goals) in the top half of the table.
Watford v Burnley
The Hornets are just a defeat away from relegation and Roy Hodgson will be reluctant to watch his side drop down to the Championship at Vicarage Road this week, but how can he be hopeful when Watford last celebrated a home victory back in November last year? A disastrous home record of 10 consecutive losses results in being a point away from the bottom and if Watford can’t stop the in-form Clarets, they will bid goodbye to the Premier League. Burnley finally escaped the relegation zone last week and the Dyche-less side is unbeaten after the manager left Turf Moor. The squad’s response has been impressive, noting seven points out of the last nine available and the players look determined not to get back in the dangerous zone. The captain, Ben Mee can’t help his teammates on the pitch yet, but his assistance off the pitch to the interim manager, Mike Jackson is proving pivotal. The Clarets are on a back-to-back winning run accompanied by Pope saving the net in the past 180 minutes of league action and I can’t see them lose at Vicarage Road.
Emmanuel Denis’ heroics aren’t enough alone to prevent Watford from going down and with the third worst defence (67 goals conceded) in the league behind him, it would take a miracle for the Hornets to end their awful home run and snatch an important victory. I expect Burnley to continue its survival bid and not let Watford bring them back in the relegation zone.
Leeds v Man City
The game of the day on Saturday features Premier League leaders Manchester City who look to continue their invincible form on their title charge as Liverpool keep the pressure on.
This City side embarrassed Bielsa’s Leeds side 7-0 at the Etihad before the turn of the year and are going from strength to strength this season with the possibility of a UCL and PL double on the cards. A 4-3 win over the Galacticos in midweek highlighted City’s attacking quality and how much they missed full back Joao Cancelo defensively. Guardiola has wonderful depth in talent in his 433 system meaning he can rotate Mahrez and Foden without struggling to score goals going forward.
Leeds are a different side to the one demolished 7-0 by City as Bielsa’s gung-ho football has been replaced by the more conservative Jesse Marsch. Bielsa earned Leeds promotion in 2020 but the decision to sack him appears to be the right one with the American replacement steering Leeds out of the bottom 3. A pivotal part of this has been defensive stability, conceding just 4 goals in their last 5 games as opposed to the 21 goals conceded in 6 games The majority of these goals conceded have been on the road with under 2 per games conceded at home in comparison to well over 2 on their travels.
I have no real doubt City will win today but I don’t expect another 7-0 blowout. City to Win and Under 3.5 Goals at 2.2 is phenomenal odds as under 3.5 landed in both games last season but I’m taking under 4.5 as a safer bet.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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