Football expert Chris bland gives his verdict on four of Saturday’s big Premier League matches. He reckons that an in form Everton can dent Arsenal’s European hopes. Read on for his Premier League betting guide.
Manchester United vs. Watford
Manchester United reignited the race for the top four with victory away at Chelsea last Monday, and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer will want to see his side build on that victory against Watford, who themselves are looking to do the double over the Manchester side.
United were fortunate in victory against Chelsea, as VAR missed a potential Harry Maguire red card, whilst being bettered on xG and disallowed goals saw a wasteful Chelsea rue miss chances. However, the game on Sunday will take a completely different shape to that of Monday’s clash, with the impetus placed on Solksjaer’s side to create, something they have struggled to do throughout the season.
Their last meeting saw David De Gea gift Watford the lead before a penalty handed the Hornets victory, and it was an excellent defensive and counter attacking display from Nigel Pearson’s side, and more of the same will be needed on Sunday if they are to bring themselves away from the drop zone.
A blunt United attack that day struggled to break down the Hornets, but the introduction of Bruno Fernandes will be crucial in games like this, and there will be a huge weight on his shoulders to be the influential figure in the midfield, with United expected to switch back to a 4-2-3-1 formation which should free him up to create for Anthony Martial in behind the striker. With Watford expected to sit deep, the space will be in front of the back four and a break through could come from overlapping full backs, but Solksjaer will have to be wary of the threat on the counter of Watford, which un-did United last time out.
I am expecting a tight game, and United having to be patient to break down a side that has made vast strides towards safety under Pearson, but I feel the introduction of Fernandes, coupled with the improving Fred and Matic behind, should have enough to break down a resolute Watford side eventually, and will go for United to wrap up the three points on Sunday.
Premier League betting guide: Manchester United
Wolves vs. Norwich
Next up on Sunday is Wolves against Norwich, as Nuno Esporito Santo’s side take on the Canaries who gave Liverpool a real run for their money last weekend before Sadio Mane struck late to hand them three points.
Thursday’s 4-0 win over Espanyol must be factored in, and an already thin squad for Wolves may be rotated and become stretched if they are to piece a run together in Europe, and Santo may be tempted to change it up on Sunday against the Premier League struggles. They will be full of confidence and able to rest players in the away leg after their resounding victory, so it further reinforces the chances of Wolves in this.
However, Norwich’s January signings have hit the ground running, adding competition and depth up front to Farke’s side, and this will give him particular promise heading into this clash.
The shape of the game is hard to call, as Wolves may be tempted to sit off the Canaries and invite on the Norwich pressure, before looking to exploit their narrow defence over the top with their tricky wingers, whilst Raul Jimenez will be relishing the chance coming up against Grant Hanley and Christopher Zimmermann at the back.
For all their improving form, the xG of Norwich cannot be overlooked, only averaging a goal per game compared to their xGa of over two a game, and Wolves’ defence will fancy their chances of shutting out this attack. The defensive frailities are too much to overlook, and tactically speaking their narrow set up will allow the wing backs and wingers too much space, and as a result I will have to go for a Wolves win, regardless of any rotation and fatigue that could be factored in.
Premier League betting guide: Wolves
Arsenal vs. Everton
The Emirates hosts by far the toughest tie to call of the Sunday and Monday fixtures, and Carlo Ancelotti’s side’s form since he took is tough to look past for this. Arsenal managed an impressive win away at Olympiacos in midweek, but the quick turn around and travelling for a side that fielded a full strength eleven must be factored in, and could have a bearing on the game.
Improvements at the back, as well as much more structure in attacking areas which has brought out the best in top-scorer Dominic Calvert-Lewin has lifted the Toffees to ninth, and with only one league defeat since the Italian took over, and that was against champions Manchester City.
Arsenal took a long time to get going against Newcastle last weekend before picking off the struggling Magpies in the second half, and any sluggish start will be punished by a much stronger attacking unit, as well as one more suited to defending higher and causing the Gunners more problems.
I am expecting an entertaining affair in this one, with both sides harbouring European hopes, particularly after Chelsea’s defeat last weekend and clash with Spurs this weekend leaving the door wide open.
I still worry about Arsenal’s defence, and if overcommitting men forward they will be picked off by the impressive Everton counter, although they do look like they are clicking going forward, and Alexandre Lacazette will be full of confidence after ending his drought last weekend. Nicolas Pepe will cause problems down the right, whilst Theo Walcott’s defensive contribution will be called into question by Bukayo Saka down the left, and this will be an avenue Arsenal target.
I can see an exciting game, with two sides fairly evenly matched, and much like the first meeting between the two sides in the season, it is a draw that looks most likely here.
Premier League betting guide: Draw
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