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Premier League preview: United set to be mauled by Wolves

Once the transfer window creaks shut at 23:00, attention will turn straight back to a huge weekend of Premier League action. Chris Bland gives his verdict on four of Saturday’s big matches and he thinks that Wolves can upset Manchester United in Saturday’s late game. If you agree with his Premier League preview then why not have a go at our football pools?


Premier League preview


Leicester vs. Chelsea

Saturday, 12:30

Fact: Chelsea have only lost 1 of their last 10 matches against Leicester in all competitions

The King Power hosts the top four clash between Leicester and Chelsea. With two of the best attacking teams in the league pitted against one another, it should be a thriller.

Wastefulness in front of goal has been the downfall of both sides in recent weeks. It was showcased by Leicester’s defeat to Villa on Tuesday, when they were struck down by Trezeguet’s late goal.

The tie did highlight defensive vulnerabilities that have begun to appear for Rodgers’ side. Lampard will be keen to build on these worries come Saturday lunchtime, particularly down Leciester’s right flank. Although Ricardo Pereira has impressed, he is often left exposed by Ayoze Perez in front, and this was an avenue Matt Targett and Jack Grealish were able to have a field day down for Villa.

Counter attacks have also proved to work well against Rodgers’ side, and in victories against Tottenham and Arsenal over Christmas, Chelsea showcased their ability to utilise these, particularly with Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi on the break.

The draw against Arsenal highlighted Chelsea’s own similar problems in front of goal, and without Tammy Abraham this Saturday, who is going to solve the problem awaits to be seen. An expected goals of 48.21 shows how many chances they are creating, but only scoring 41, and missing chances in tight games, has been their problem and is arguably seeing them under-perform.

As we head into deadline day, Chelsea are in the market for a striker, but any signing would be too late to feature on Saturday, so it does make for an interesting tactical ploy from Lampard as to how he’ll adapt in his top goalscorer’s absence.

Which attack from both sides will turn up is the key question heading into this tie, and with both showing their devastating form in some matches, but wastefulness in others, it makes for a particularly hard clash to call. I’m happy to sit on the fence and call a draw on this clash, as it is also a result that will particularly suit both sides.

Premier League betting tips: Draw


Crystal Palace vs. Sheffield United

Saturday, 15:00

Fact: There have been under 2.5 goals scored in Sheffield United’s last 8 games

Sheffield United have made some interesting movements in the final days of the transfer window, with Norwegian superstar Sander Berge arriving, and more rumoured to be incoming as the window slams shut.

Crystal Palace themselves are in the market for much needed attacking reinforcements, but a move for Jarrod Bowen looks to have fallen through, and they could still do with adding attacking depth, with only Cenk Tosun so far through the door.

It will be a tight affair in London on Saturday, with surprise package Sheffield United well equipped to deal with Palace’s threat. A 1-0 win in the reverse fixture gave Chris Wilder’s side a first win on their return to the Premier League, and they have gone from strength to strength since that win.

A physical battle will be no surprise to see on Saturday, with both sides favouring both physical attackers and defenders, and when considering the underlying statistics of both sides, goals will be hard to come by. Palace, sat in 11th, have only scored 22 goals in 24 games, and they are massively out-performing their xG both attacking and defending. 21.28 for and 37.24 against shows just how fortunate they’ve been, and would be sat in 16th if adjusting for expected points, and creating chances against such a tight defensive unit could cause problems.

Sheffield United, sat 8th and just one point behind Manchester United in fifth, have seen goals equally hard to come by, but there are signs that their attack should be well suited to breaking down the Palace backline. I believe the impetus will be on Sheffield United to dominate, particularly with Oliver Norwood in the midfield, as Palace look to use Wilfried Zaha on the break. However, Sheffield United have got goals in them from both the strikers and midfielders when up against these sides, and the overloads they’ll be able to create in wide areas to get the ball into the box will be crucial, and hold the key to breaking down Roy Hodgson’s side.

As a result, I’m happy to plump for Sheffield United to continue their fine form, even away from home, and I could see the problems begin to grow for Palace as they slip down the league in the second half of the season.

Premier League betting tips: Sheffield United


Watford vs. Everton

Saturday, 15:00

Fact: Watford are undefeated in their last 5 home matches

Two sides who have shown how, and when, to change a manager to perfection clash on Saturday, and the form of both sides makes this a particularly tough game to call.

Everton have drawn their last two, all be it somehow finding a way to throw away a two goal lead to Newcastle with two minutes to go in their last outing. Since Marco Silva’s sacking, they have only lost to Manchester City in the league, and they are showing to be a much more assured defensive unit under Carlo Ancelotti, whilst he also gets the best out of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison going forward. The shape of the midfield feels much clearer, and the 4-4-2 of Everton coming up against 4-2-3-1 of Watford could see for quite an open game, particularly with both sides being more than capable on the counter attack.

Nigel Pearson has led the Watford revival, but they are still sat 19th in the league after last week’s disappointing defeat to Aston Villa, and a result is much-needed if they are to upkeep their strong form under their manager.

They are gradually catching up with their expected goals, but the last two games have shown the need for more clinical nature to be shown in front of goal, as they drew 0-0 with Tottenham despite topping the xG 2.15 to 1.85 (including a Troy Deeney penalty miss), before losing late to fellow relegation threatened Aston Villa, again topping the xG 1.84 to 1.04.

As a result, I wouldn’t be panicking quite yet as Watford fans, as the underlying numbers do show they are creating enough chances, it may just need to see someone step up and share the burden with Deeney up front. A striker could be incoming on transfer deadline day, and go a long way to solving these issues, but at time of writing no incomings are confirmed, and it would be presumably too late to feature come Saturday.

Richarlison’s shock links to Barcelona will be interesting to see if this has any impact upon his performances for Everton, and it could be worth factoring this in to the thinking, and whether he starts against Watford on Saturday.

It should be an open encounter on Saturday, with both sides well equipped to cause one another problems. A draw would be no surprise, and in the long-run represent a good result for both sides. As a result, I’m happy to opt for a draw, all be it what could be a surprisingly high scoring one.

Premier League betting tips: Draw


Manchester United vs. Wolves

Saturday. 17:30

Fact: There have been over 2.5 goals in 5 of Wolves’ last 6 away games

A midweek win for Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s side over champions Manchester City came in vain as they were knocked out of the League Cup, and its fair to say that they rode their luck once again before Nemanja Matic fired home to give his side a surprise victory.

However, the shape of the game and opposition on Saturday evening are bound to cause Solksjaer problems compared to City, where they were able to sit back and look to counter Pep Guardiola’s side. Problems, as they often have done this season, arose when trying to take the game to City, with creativity an issue behind the two strikers, whilst they also left themselves open to the counter attack throughout, and these are two key areas that Wolves are well suited to pick off themselves.

Matic’s suspension will make for a huge miss in the middle of midfield, and could see Andreas Pereira drop deeper, a role he has particularly struggled in this season. Coming up against the Portuguese duo Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho in the middle, it could be a long afternoon as they struggle to cope with the control the pair offer. Out on the wings, the switch to five at the back for United could cause their own problems once again, with Adama Traore and Diogo Jota looking to create 2v1s with wing backs Matt Doherty and Jonny, and in the FA Cup meetings between the two they have showed these avenues to be workable, particularly with Raul Jimenez to hit in the middle.

Defensively, Wolves are well equipped to cope with United’s threat, and without top-scorer Marcus Rashford, they are in danger of becoming one dimensional with Anthony Martial and Dan James leading the line. The signing of Bruno Fernandes will be crucial in the coming weeks, potentially plugging the creative gap they have struggled to fill in central attacking midfield, but Saturday may come too soon to throw the attacker straight in.

Wolves’ defensive record when considering the underlying numbers is impressive enough, with an xGa of 27.08 suggesting they have been unlucky to conceded as many as they have done. With only Ruben Vinagre out and Daniel Podence signed in recent days, they are well equipped to finally topple United this season. A win at Old Trafford on Saturday evening won’t come as a surprise.

Premier League betting tips: Wolves



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