Chelsea v Newcastle
Chelsea may be in 3rd and Newcastle in 14th but it’s the visitors who come into this fixture in better form, in fact the second best form in the league with 16 points in 6 games. Chelsea aren’t exactly in bad form either with 4 wins from 6 which sets up for a brilliant spectacle on Sunday afternoon.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding Chelsea at the minute with sanctions, questions about the ownership and other factors overshadowing the results on the pitch for Tuchel’s men. They have only lost once at home all year to the electric Man City but have drawn 5 of the last 7, including against Burnley, Everton and Brighton, all sides in poor form. Surprising defensive struggles have hindered results at home, conceding in all but 2 of their last 10 games despite averaging less than a goal againstper game.
Eddie Howe’s army are flying with 3 wins in a row and no defeat in the league in 2022. Victory at Southampton sealed the deal for me that this isn’t just a temporary run of form as Newcastle inflicted just the second home defeat for the Saints all season. I feel like every week I mention the quality of Bruno Guimares and how he’s due a start and Howe was rewarded with a goal from the starter with Chris Wood getting off the mark as well.
Chelsea are favourites for this game, but I don’t think they should be by much with the way Eddie Howe has Newcastle playing. The last time Newcastle lost by more than 1 was mid-December and even if they lose today, they should score and cause Chelsea a problem or two, particularly with Saint-Maximin exploiting the space in behind the wing back.
Everton v Wolves
Wolves were dominant on Thursday, seeing off a terrible Watford team with an early handful of goals and barely giving the Hornets a sniff. They face off against another (surprising) relegation candidate in Everton who failed to score for a 3rd Prem game in a row as they lost 5-0 away at Spurs.
Everton’s run in is dreadful, still having to play United, Liverpool, West Ham, Chelsea and Arsenal is not a nice sight for the club in 17th and sitting so close to relegation. Worryingly, Calvert-Lewin returned alongside Richarlison and Gordon, but Everton are still struggling to get anything going, registering an xG of 0.08 across 90 mins at Spurs, failing to hit the target.
An end to poor form with a 4-0 win against Watford should provide optimism around the Wolves camp again. Travelling to opposition near the bottom of the table has proved successful for points this season, winning at Watford and Brentford while picking up results at Leeds and Norwich. I expect them to get a result against a poorly drilled Everton side who match up poorly against a resilient Wolves outfit.
My pick here is Wolves double chance which is at surprisingly good odds of 1.57 in what should be a game of such fine margins. Wolves don’t concede many, especially on the road and I expect another clean sheet here against an Everton front 3 still trying to gel.
Leeds v Norwich
Two sides who have lost 6 in a row across all competitions meet at Elland Road in a key game for the relegation battle.
Jesse Marsch hasn’t been able to produce the turnaround Leeds fans desired when he replaced club legend Bielsa but this game provides a real chance for a first win in charge. Bamford’s return on Thursday didn’t net a goal against Villa but should be a greater catalyst for success against Norwich, a much weaker side.
Neither of these sides hold much defensive ability shipping 64 and 61 goals apiece this season but neither side fills me with confidence that they could score either. 8 points and 7 goals away from home all season for Norwich shows how they set up far too defensively, never giving main striker Teemu Pukki an opportunity.
Norwich should set up in usual fashion, defensively and hitting Leeds on the counter which should afford Leeds plenty of the ball, particularly outside the area. The visitors will attempt to remain compact and with the return of Bamford Leeds could turn to a more aerial route to goal with plenty of crosses to their number 9. This should allow for plenty of opportunity for Leeds corners which is my bet here.
Leeds average 5.29 corners per game at home this season which is just in the top 10 but importantly they face a Norwich side who ship 7.15 per game on the road as a result of their defensive nature. If Leeds play with any intensity and take the game to Norwich then over 5.5 corners should land at a breeze.
Southampton v Watford
Both these sides lost in midweek, one slightly more emphatically than the other as Hodgson’s Hornets put in yet another embarrassing showing, failing to register a shot on target. In fact, 4 of their last 7 games have seen Watford take a shot on target or less.
Unsurprisingly at Watford, there is pressure on the manager, however this appointment has felt off since the start. Despite being a defensive manager brought in for stability, Hodgson’s side have conceded 11 in 4 games, even including a clean sheet at Old Trafford.
A slip-up to in-form Newcastle at gave Saints fans just their second taste of home defeat all season. This should be a far easier match up as they have had the upper hand on previous and better Watford sides, going unbeaten in 6 games, including a 1-0 win in the reverse fixture. Che Adams’ delicate chip sealed the three points that day, but Saints ran Watford ragged from start to finish and could have had at least 4 with Armstrong missing a bunch of chances.
The atmosphere around Watford is so negative right now as the club appears to already be preparing for the Championship and a miserable trip in midweek has worn this side out. Saints are a patient side and will frustrate Watford who shouldn’t have the discipline or fitness levels to keep up with Hassenhuttl’s 11.
West Ham v Aston Villa
The Hammers had a tough midweek defeat to Sevilla which will have really taken the wind out their sails as they travel back to London to play just 3 days later against an Aston Villa side on a hot streak.
In my last article, I mentioned how Villa’s switch to a 4-3-1-2 was bringing the best out of the new front 3 but I was surprised at how defensively resilient they were against Leeds conceding just 4 total shots. In their past 3 games, they have only faced a single SOT per game with 3 clean sheets and 9 goals scored.
In contrast to Villa’s 3 wins on the bounce, West Ham have lost 3 in a row across all competitions and are in desperate needs of a win. Against this newly reformed Villa back line, West Ham will need to rely on moments of real quality to break down Villa and therefore the loss of Jarrod Bowen will be even more difficult to contend with.
There is an added incentive for Villa tonight as victory here and victory in their game in hand would leave them just 3 points shy of the Hammers and pushing for a European spot. Again they will rely on the brilliance of magician Phillipe Coutinho who has a track record at London stadium with 3 goals contributions in a performance here in 2017. The possibility of Declan Rice being injured could play into Villa’s hands even more, leaving Coutinho with more time on the ball to pick the Hammers apart. I expect Villa to continue their form here, and even if they don’t win, I think a point is the bare minimum to expect from this game.
Arsenal v Leicester
With a fourth win on the bounce last weekend, Arsenal continued their strong push towards a return to Champions League football maintaining fourth spot in the table. Leicester have also quietly stuck together a run of form, keeping a first away clean sheet of the season at Burnley as they also have won 4 in a row but with 4 clean sheets.
Arsenal are flying, particularly going forward. It was a comfortable win at Watford although the score line suggest otherwise following a late Sissoko goal. Odegaard, Saka and Martinelli all netted beautiful goals last week in a complete performance where Arsenal could have had 5 or 6. The Gunners look more threatening at home though, averaging 2.26 xG per game and failing to score just twice against Burnley and Chelsea, two of the more resilient back lines.
Today, they face a far less resilient back line in the form of Leicester City who average 2.09 xG against and 2.08 goals against on their travels this season, with just the one clean sheet. In travels to top 6 sides, they have conceded 12 in 3 games while also scoring 4 in the process. Going forward, they have had no trouble despite injury to Jamie Vardy, scoring 40 league goals already this season.
BTTS is my pick here which has landed in 83% of Leicester away games and each of Arsenal last 3 games. A leaky Leicester defence should struggle in a notoriously poor fixture for the Foxes. Containing Arsenal is a tough job for most back lines particularly with the form of Martin Odegaard, creating opportunities for the rest of the front 4.
Crystal Palace v Man City
Palace host City on Monday, looking to complete the double over the league leaders after a superb 2-0 win at the Etihad. Despite coming into this game on a run of form, picking up 7 points from a possible 9, Palace will have to be at their best to get anything from a buoyant City side who dispatched United in the derby last week.
I will be looking at the corner market in this game where City lead the league in corners taken, both home and away. City to win to nil could be good value as City have won their last 4 away games to nil but with no Ruben Dias and the possibility of no Cancelo I’m not confident enough to make this my bet.
City average 8.64 corners per game and Palace 4.64 including 5.14 at home. These two sides are both full of attacking talent and with the home crowd behind Palace, I don’t expect Viera’s men to just sit in for 90 minutes. The ability Michael Olise has to beat his man is almost unmatched and if Cancelo is ruled out, he will be a key outlet out wide, getting to the by-line and forcing corners.
Over 10.5 corners comes in at odds of 1.91 which seems high odds for any game containing City, never mind being against one of the few sides who take the game to City. I expect City to dominate this game, as usual, but Palace are a good side on the counter who could pose problems, particularly out wide.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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