Well, After tipping Aston Villa to beat Arsenal and Scotland to win on penalties at 14/1 our betting expert Jones Knows is in hot form; Watch Spurs vs Man City, Sheffield United vs West Ham, Leeds vs Arsenal, Liverpool vs Leicester all on Sky Sports.
Newcastle vs Chelsea, Saturday 12.30pm
Steve Bruce can be a fiddly customer to overcome when the underdog – home wins against Manchester United and Chelsea last season prove that. However, timing has to be key when foreseeing when an unexpected Toon result is on the horizon. This is not one of those occasions.
Despite their abysmal metrics (had just 20 shots on target this season, scoring with 10 of those) and – at times – visually mind-numbing performances, Bruce has rarely come under significant pressure in his job as he has only gone six matches without a win once since taking the job.
He seems to bag a win when one is needed. When the pressure is mounting. And, that situation is still a few weeks away, so Chelsea, who are certainly going the right way under Frank Lampard, shouldn’t have too many problems here in strengthening the staggering away win statistics across the Premier League this season.
In 78 Premier League games, there have been 34 away wins, compared to 29 at home – easily the highest ratio of away wins in Premier League era.
Brighton can also be relied upon to produce excitement.
Only Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham have had more shots on goal than them this season. The data suggests their position of 16th in the Premier League significantly underrates their true colours but this isn’t a short-term case of supposed underachievement – it’s been going on for nearly all of Graham Potter’s tenure. Perhaps it’s a football philosophy that will always generate sparkling metrics but fall short on the points front.
Tottenham vs Manchester City, Saturday 5.30pm, live on Sky Sports Premier League
The time may have come where the Pep Guardiola revolution is starting to fall away from its peak – the news of his new contract did surprise me.
The signs have been there in the declining performance metrics and can be seen purely with the eyes. The intensity is down and City aren’t strangling teams like they used to. Many onlookers are putting it down to the lack of pre-season factor, but it may run deeper than just that.
So, what is to blame? The answer may be found in their attacking metrics, which have nosedived this season. A return of just 10 goals from their seven matches, they had scored 27 this time last season, tells most of the story but are they just missing chances? The answer is a big fat no. The underlying numbers paint a dim picture of City’s chance creation rate compared to the vintage years.
A return of 17 points from their eight games is perfectly aligned with their performance metrics. If keeping to this level, Spurs will be top-four challengers this season, maybe even title contenders in a below-average year. Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min are a world-class prolific partnership. I have no problems with their skills carrying my support this weekend.
It’s also worth noting, Spurs have won their last three Premier League games by a one-goal margin – it’s something Jose Mourinho teams are famed for. He once went seven Premier League games on the spin winning by one goal when Chelsea roared to the title in 2015.
Manchester United vs West Brom, Saturday 8.00pm
“A real six-pointer,” according to a Liverpool supporting mate of mine. Cheeky.
I did point out in reply that United are just a win away from seventh and very much in the running at 5/2 for a top-four finish. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer isn’t the second coming of Sir Alex Ferguson but he’s got a team certainly that are top-four quality, whether that’s enough or where United need to be is another matter altogether. A rise up the table is forthcoming though.
Fulham vs Everton, Sunday 12.00pm
Everton have used 25 players this season, that’s more than any team in the Premier League. That has been the major problem for Carlo Ancelotti. The drop off in quality from his first-choice XI to his back-ups make Everton a tough team to assess without knowing precisely who will be starting. The return of Richarlison is an obvious boost as it’s been chalk and cheese in terms of performances from the first five games to the last three in which he missed. All those ended in defeat.
A fourth on the spin could be on the cards too against an improving Fulham, who didn’t lose too much of my faith in the defeat at West Ham. There was nothing between the sides there as Scott Parker’s 4-4-1-1 formation with Tom Cairney, André-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Ademola Lookman in support of Aleksandar Mitrovic provided a nice balance in forward areas. That foursome can trouble a shaky Everton defence.
Sheffield United vs West Ham, Sunday 2.00pm, live on Sky Sports Premier League
If relegation is to be staved off this season, Sheffield United need to break this winless run and fast. They are just the fifth team in the Premier League era to take one point from their opening eight games but two of those previous four teams did go onto survive. However, the other two teams lost their ninth game and went down, so it shows the task ahead if Chris Wilder doesn’t pick up three points this Sunday in the ‘Carlos Tevez derby’. Key injuries and missing big chances at key points have been their downfall.
The Blades have only had their usual back three of John Egan, Jack O’Connell and Chris Basham on the pitch for 83 minutes this season – O’Connell is out for at least six months and Egan is a doubt this weekend.
Leeds vs Arsenal, Sunday 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports Premier League
We all love watching Leeds, who have never previously lost three consecutive League games under Marcelo Bielsa.
But that might be about to change.
Bielsa’s boys mixed start on their return to the Premier League can be underlined by the defensive issues that have been apparent since their opening day defeat at Liverpool. Whilst no side outside the current top seven have scored more than Leeds’ 14 goals, they have the joint-worst defence in the Premier League, along with West Brom.
With Leeds being sexy in attack but vulnerable at the back, they are the type of opponent Mikel Arteta has a habit of being able to deactivate.
On the outside Arteta looks to bred from the same stable as Pep Guardiola but there’s more chance of him being related to Sam Allardyce judged on his desire for the defence.
The difference in this one may just well be Arsenal’s summer signing Gabriel Magalhaes, who has settled in quickly and in assured fashion, bringing a much sought-after composure to a defence that has come under regular criticism in recent seasons. His threat in the opposition box shouldn’t be underestimated either against a side that have shipped eight goals from set pieces this season.
Liverpool vs Leicester, Sunday 7.15pm, live on Sky Sports Premier League
Let’s be honest, many of the stats we love to consume are worthless when it comes to spotting betting angles. But sometimes they are just too good to ignore.
How about this one?
Leicester City have created the least amount of chances per game from open play in the Premier League this season.
Fewer than Burnley. Fewer than West Brom. But Leicester City are top of the Premier League. Brain frazzled, eh?
Of course, there are many ways to skin a cat in football and winning penalties – Leicester have won seven already this season – is an important skill to possess with VAR in full flow. But a 90-minute average of just 5.1 chances created from open play isn’t sustainable in terms of Leicester being a genuine title contender. And, despite Liverpool’s injury woes (Leicester have them too, by the way), Brendan Rodgers’ side could be in for a reality check at Anfield.
With problems with personnel in defence and Mohamed Salah out due to Covid-19, Jurgen Klopp is likely to undertake the ‘attack is the best form of defence’ philosophy and there’s still enough quality in the form of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota to trust Liverpool to get the job done.
When the two clubs met last season, Liverpool won both matches and dominated the shot count 32-5 over the two games.
Burnley vs Crystal Palace, Monday 5.30pm, live on Sky Sports Premier League
This game could be a case of ‘first goal wins’ – as both clubs are extremely rock solid at seeing a job through when getting their noses in front.
Palace haven’t lost a match in 17 attempts when scoring first, winning 13 of those, whilst Burnley have won 14 of their last 18 matches when getting the first goal.
Burnley looked far better organised with the return of Ben Mee in the draw with Brighton but it was a rather toothless showing up the other end. It’s no surprise to see they are the lowest scorers in English football with just three goals with just one of those coming from open play. Confidence must be an issue in those forward areas, hence why I’m siding with Palace, who have found the net 12 times already this season – it’s the most they ever scored at this stage of a Premier League campaign. They can get the first, and ultimately winning, goal.
Wolves vs Southampton, Monday 8.00pm, live on Sky Sports Premier League
My instinct when Southampton play is to put faith in them, no matter the opposition. They have 14 Premier League wins to their name in 2020 – only Liverpool (19) and Manchester City (16) have managed more in that period. However, although it pains me to write anything negative regarding Ralph Hasenhuttl, the Saints are overperforming this season according to the performance data, especially in forward areas. I’m sure their current form isn’t sustainable without Danny Ings.
And here they are facing a Wolves team that are just so difficult to play against. Saints have had problems against rugged and well-organised opposition in the past as shown by defeats to Burnley, Newcastle and Crystal Palace last season. Wolves are a level above those teams mid-table ranked teams and possess much more quality in forward areas. Can they edge it? Oh, I just can’t go against Sir Ralph. I’m on the fence.