Watford v Crystal Palace
Wednesday 23rd February – 7:30PM KO
Roy Hodgson welcomes his former side Crystal Palace to Vicarage Road looking to record back to back wins after a successful outing at Villa Park last time out in the Premier League.
Watford looked a different side on Saturday, welcoming back Ismaila Sarr and reverting back to a 4-3-3. The Hornets were electric on the counter with Sarr and Dennis forming a lethal combination resulting in a goal, while they recorded 5 counter attacks their highest number this calendar year, with 4 culminating in shots also the highest total.
Palace were fairly solid but unremarkable as they fell to late defeat at home to Chelsea, failing to register a shot on target. Without a win in 5, Viera’s men need a statement performance from their key players and will look to play with the intensity that has troubled so many sides this season. I think this will be difficult with 5 games in just over 2 weeks wearing this outfit out which should give the Hornets opportunities over the top.
These sides matchup favourably for Watford, Palace struggle against a 4-3-3 only winning against this formation once which was also their only away win at Man City. Meanwhile, Watford are happy to soak up the pressure and hit sides on the counter attack with all 4 wins this season coming with less than 55% possession. Palace’s sole win was not a game they were able to dominate, giving up 68% possession to 10 men, showing they struggle to break down the sides which sit in.
Palace have won just once on the road this season and aren’t filling me with confidence as they head to this important game. Watford will be looking for 3 points to close up the gap here, especially with a tough fixture at Old Trafford around the corner. I’m taking Watford +1 handicap which has landed on Palace’s last 6 trips to the Vic.
Prediction: Watford +1, 1.57 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Burnley v Tottenham
Wednesday 23rd February – 7:30PM KO
A surprise victory each for these teams gives both Burnley and Spurs unexpected momentum coming into this game.
Despite a comprehensive 3-0 victory on the South Coast at the weekend, Burnley still sit 19th in the league and in danger of relegation. The Weghorst + Cornet combination is going to be essential but could struggle against a Spurs back 3 outnumbering them.
Spurs, and in particular Harry Kane, were excellent at the Etihad, completing the double over City. Sitting in with just 28% possession, it was an exhibition in counter-attacking football, however tonight’s opponents are a completely different outfit and style of play. The pace of Son and Kulusevski working in behind will be effective but less so against a deep back line and a side sitting back. With 55% of Spurs away games going under 2.5 goals, don’t be surprised to see this again.
Just 1 out of 10 games Burnley have played against the top 8 have gone over 2.5 goals as they are often happy to settle for a point. Expect a similar pattern to that last 2 meetings between these sides at Turf Moor where Spurs won 1-0 both times.
Prediction: Under 2.5 Goals, 1.75 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Liverpool v Leeds
Wednesday 23rd February – 7:45PM KO
Having closed the gap on leaders Manchester City at the weekend, Liverpool will look to utilise their game in hand to cut it down to just 3 points on Wednesday.
Suffering one of the scares of the season against Norwich, Liverpool turned to Salah, Mane and Diaz to dig them out of a hole in what turned into a comfortable victory. It feels like the only thing that can halt this run of wins is fitness with fixture congestion, especially with knocks to Jota and Firmino.
Leeds were run ragged by Man United on Sunday, shipping 4 goals and losing their heads for 6 cards. The intensity Leeds play at is difficult to maintain and it’s tough to see how they travel to Anfield and perform just 3 days after United. One big bright spot was Raphinha in the second half, as he bagged a goal.
With this game going to be as one-sided as I expect, the majority of the game should be played in the Leeds half with the Liverpool front 3 peppering Meslier. The young French GK was exposed against United as his positioning allowed United’s first goal from a corner this season. Liverpool will use corners as a way to exploit Leeds’ weakness as they have scored 11 goals from corners, the most in the league and far more than league average 4.15.
Liverpool average 7.92 home corners per game and 7.88 corners per game in all games, including 11 against Leeds in the reverse fixture. They should have plenty in this clash today.
Prediction: Liverpool Over 7.5 Corners, 1.95 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Arsenal v Wolves
Thursday 24th February – 7:45PM KO
For the second Thursday in three weeks, Arsenal and Wolves face off in a surprisingly big clash for a top 4 position.
The reverse fixture at Molineux finished 1-0 as Wolves failed to break down an all too familiar sight of Arsenal with 10 men. Wolves have since won back to back games and will look to make it 3 in a row here, while Arsenal look to do the same having notched up their first win of the year two weeks ago.
In this game, I can’t see many goals at all, if any. As I mentioned the reverse fixture finished 1-0, and both these backlines have been superb all year with 20 clean sheets between the two sides at a rate of 43%. Meanwhile Wolves have failed to score in 46% of fixtures and kept clean sheets in 6 of 12 away games.
I mentioned in my article two weeks ago that Arsenal had just lost Aubameyang and would need time for their new attack to gel. Smith-Rowe and Saka netted against Brentford in a 2-1 win while new Barca man Aubameyang netted a brace himself. However, it was their resilient defence that allowed just two shots on target that secured the 3 points.
Arsenal welcomed back Kieran Tierney against Brentford and could also welcome the return of Tomiyasu to further bolster that defensive stability while Wolves saw Joao Moutinho return to action. With two possibly full strength sides out, I can see this game going 1-0 either way again and can’t see both teams scoring.
Prediction: Both Teams to Score – No, 1.73 on Betfair (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)
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