It’s a reduced Premier League schedule this weekend but Chris Bland sizes up three of the remaining games to give us his Premier League betting tips. He reckons that Chelsea and Manchester United may struggle to find a way past one another in their clash at Stamford Bridge on Monday. If you agree with Chris’ tips, check out our football pools.
Aston Villa vs. Tottenham
Aston Villa host Tottenham as Super Sunday kicks off in the Midlands. Jose Mourinho will be keen to build on an impressive run of form ahead of their Champions League clash with RB Leipzig.
Without much depth to call on up front, we should see a full-strength Spurs side despite the looming midweek games. They come up against relegation candidates, Aston Villa, who are looking to bounce back from a disappointing defeat to ten-man Bournemouth before the break.
Despite a recent up-turn in form, aided by January signing Mbwana Samatta and the red-hot Jack Grealish, the underlying numbers for Aston Villa have been catching up. It is defensively particularly worrying for Dean Smith’s side.
A switch to three at the back appears to have helped their form pick up but the numbers are still worrying. Their expected goals against has continued at a high level despite the extra defenders. With 47 goals conceded and 51.73 xGa, Spurs will be relishing the chance to take on this leaky defence. Ezri Konsa is doubtful which adds another worry and the improvement in Tottenham’s attack, and adaptation to Harry Kane’s absence, has been apparent recently.
Although the impressive win over Manchester City will give them confidence, this game will take a different shape. More can be drawn upon from the victories over Southampton in the cup and Norwich in the league. Each highlighted two areas of improvement.
Villa will initially look to set up with a compact defence, but the improvements of Giovani Lo Celso’s form means that they are well equipped to break down this leaky backline. Although they are packing defensive areas, they are susceptible down the flanks, with Grealish and El-Ghazi at times suspect defensively, and new signing Steven Bergwijn will be looking to build upon his superb debut for Spurs.
These threats reinforce a deep defensive line, but with Lo Celso pulling the strings from deep, coupled with the overlapping full backs providing extra width, I expect to see Spurs pick off Villa. If leading, the counter attack becomes particularly concerning for Aston Villa, with Spurs ruthless against Southampton in the cup through this method, and Smith will be wary of this threat, but admittedly lacks the resources to deal with this.
Villa’s best hopes come from the counter attack, with their own full backs pressing on, and I’d expect to see a similar approach to that of their victory over Leicester in the League Cup, but riding their luck in that clash, its hard to see them holding out for long periods once again.
As a result, I find it hard to oppose Spurs in this tie, and should be a relatively comfortable victory for Mourinho’s side.
Arsenal vs. Newcastle United
Super Sunday then moves South to London, as a mid-table clash sees Arsenal looking to stop a run of draws in the league as they come up against a Newcastle side consistently making a mockery of the underlying metrics.
Steve Bruce has worked wonders up in the North-East when considering the injuries his side have had, and lack of depth particularly up front, and his side have consistently found a way to pick up points in games where they would otherwise be struggling.
Like Aston Villa, Bruce’s side are outperforming the metrics that would place them in the relegation zone on expected points. An xGa of 45.92 despite only 36 goals against, as well as an xG of 20.37 and an alarming 24 goals going forward is a concern, but it is these games that tactically suit the Magpies, and can’t be overlooked.
Bruce will have his side sit deep and look to invite on the Arsenal pressure, and as they have done against Spurs, Manchester United and Chelsea this season, will look to hit the spaces in behind on the counter attack, utilising their pace on the break. The Arsenal full backs will be expected to press high and provide width, and this will leave space in behind for the Toon’s wingers and wing backs to exploit, and will be their main hope of getting a result in London on Sunday.
It worked a treat against Spurs back in August, and with Allan Saint-Maximin now to call upon, Newcastle will be confident of causing problems against a backline that has conceded 34 times this season, and the in-form Frenchman will look to cause a whole host of problems.
However, Arsenal will take promise coming up against a backline that conceded twice to League One opposition in the FA Cup, and will hope their new brand of attacking football under Mikel Arteta can see them breakdown what would be a resolute backline for the Magpies.
A lot rests on the shoulders of Mesut Ozil to provide this creative spark, and he should see plenty of the ball on Sunday. Although he struggled against Burnley in their last game, Arsenal did create plenty of chances against a backline that was surprisingly open, and it will be a different prospect against Newcastle. With space to operate high up the pitch and in between the lines, it is a game tailor made for Ozil, with little defensive responsibility, and he could shine come Sunday.
The underlying numbers are hard to overlook, and Arsenal’s improvements under Arteta haven’t quite translated into results as of yet. However, I do expect the Gunners to come out on top, and have enough creative spark to break down a Newcastle side who if required to push on in search of goals, will struggle without an in-form striker to call upon.
Chelsea vs. Manchester United
Moving onto Monday night, it represents the hardest clash of the weekend to unpick, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer takes his side to London looking to defeat Chelsea and reinforce their own European credentials.
The introduction of Bruno Fernandes to their midfield before the mini-break showed signs of promise for the Red Devils, as the Portuguese looked to get heavily involved for United. However, Solksjaer did show he didn’t quite know where the Portuguese midfielders best role was, and had to experiment between a 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 to try and get the attacker involved.
Andreas Pereira’s bit-part role in midfield doesn’t help, but being able to welcome back Nemanja Matic will free up Fernandes, and this could be crucial to their hopes on Monday night.
Solksjaer will look to sit his side deep and hit Chelsea on the counter attack, and this came to fruition in their 4-0 thrashing of Chelsea on the opening day. However, that was a side that included Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba, and with both expected to miss out, Chelsea are in a better position to deal with this threat.
Frank Lampard has learnt a lot about his side since that defeat, and he will be keen for his side to take his chances, with their wastefulness in front of goal letting them down on more than one occasion this season. Particularly standing out was their recent 2-2 draw with Arsenal, where Mikel Arteta’s side were reduced to ten men, and despite creating a large amount of chances, they were unable to make the Gunners pay and the defensive frailties were on show once again.
Solksjaer could opt for a back three, which has shown more solidity when utilised against the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City, but this could see be at the expense of creativity going forward, and the balance needs to be found against Lampard’s side.
If Chelsea can create the same volume of chances as against other sides this season, it will come down to whether or not they can actually take them this week. However, they are vulnerable at the back, and their tendency to concede can’t be overlooked. As a result, I’m happy to sit on the fence and opt for a draw, even though I do believe Chelsea will create more, I have reservations as to whether they will take their chances.
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