A hectic afternoon of domestic action lies ahead on Saturday, capped with the fascinating encounter between Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham and Jurgen Klopp’s ruthless Liverpool. Ed Acteson has given his verdict on all five game in the £5,000 1X2 Pick 5 and reckon’s that Mourinho could be in for a disappointing afternoon. If you agree with his thoughts, why not join his Syndicate?
Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal
Stat: Their last five meetings have produced 23 goals, an average of 4.6 per game
A rejuvenated Arsenal continue to improve under Mikel Arteta, having battled to victory over Leeds in the FA Cup on Monday. It marked the first time they have won two consecutive games since October, such have been the struggles of the Gunners.
If they want to make it three, they’ll have to overcome a Crystal Palace side whose defeat to Derby on Sunday was only their second in nine. In truth, it barely even counts as Roy Hodgson played what can only be considered his second string.
However, unfortunately for the veteran manager, he will have little choice but to play another weakened side against Arsenal. Andros Townsend, Max Meyer, Jeffrey Schlupp, Wilfried Zaha, Victor Camarasa, Mamadou Sakho, Scott Dann, Patrick van Aanholt, Joel Ward, Jairo Riedewald and Luka Milivojevic are all either missing or in doubt this weekend
At least five of those players would automatically be first choice for Palace and, despite the return of Christian Benteke and the signing of Cenk Tosun, Roy Hodgson will worry about his options.
Palace have a knack of upsetting the odds and are ninth, above Arsenal, on merit this season despite constant injury problems. They’ve also enjoyed playing against the Gunners recently and are unbeaten in their last three meetings.
However, I suspect this is where that run may come to an end. Despite bravely battling against the tide of injuries, eventually it will takes its toll. Arsenal are clearly on the way up and I think they’ll win this.
Leicester vs. Southampton
Stat: There have been 3 or more goals in Leicester’s last 4 matches
This promises to be an entertaining clash between two of the form sides in the division.
Leicester have actually lost two of their recent matches and have slipped down to tenth in the form table, despite remaining second in the actual league. However, when you realise that those two losses came against Manchester City and Liverpool, you don’t worry too much for them. They bounced back with a 2-1 win over West Ham and a 3-0 defeat of Newcastle, so took the defeats in their stride.
Southampton were in trouble earlier in the season. However, they are now on an unbeaten run of four games including hugely credible defeats of Chelsea and Mourinho’s Tottenham. The run has propelled them up to 12th in the table, five points clear of the relegation zone, and they can now look up the table rather than down.
Despite Southampton’s good form, they should fear a Leicester side who are carving out a reputation as flat track bullies. In 11 matches played against the sides currently occupying the bottom half of the table so far this season, Leicester have won ten and drawn one. In those matches they have managed an aggregated score of 41-7.
Possibly an even bigger reason for the Saints to worry though was the embarrassing result that occurred when they hosted Leicester in October. Brendan Rodgers’ side ran out 9-0 winners, equalling the biggest margin of victory in Premier League history. Naturally Ralph Hasenhüttl’s men will want revenge after that humiliation, however how much of a psychological impact will it have on the return leg?
I don’t see anything other than a Leicester win here.
Everton vs. Brighton
Stats: Everton’s last 5 home games have had 2 or less goals
It’s one step forward and two steps back for Carlo Ancelotti at Everton. After a pair of victories against Burnley and Newcastle, they lost to Man City and then were shocked by an incredibly youthful Liverpool side at Anfield in the FA Cup.
Angry scenes met The Toffees after the game and Fabian Delph was involved in a bust up with a supporter over Instagram which has landed him in hot water with the Everton manager. At least Delph showed some passion though which is more than can be said for his teammates, many of whom are now said to be fighting for their futures at the club.
They’ll want a reaction this weekend against a Brighton side who don’t losing many. Tasting defeat in just two of their last seven league outings, The Seagulls have notched impressive wins against Arsenal and Bournemouth whilst also drawing with Wolves, Palace and Chelsea.
It is the nature of the opposition in those draws that interests me. The Seagulls were underdogs in each of the games yet Potter has got them playing with sufficient spirit to claim a point in each. I can see that happening again this weekend.
Whilst Everton will be disappointed with anything other than victory, they aren’t anywhere near where Carlo Ancelotti wants them to be yet and may struggle to break down a well organised Brighton defence. It’s a draw for me.
Hull vs. Fulham
Stat: Hull are undefeated in their last 5 matches against Fulham
We head to the Championship next for Hull vs. Fulham and it looks an extremely tricky match to call.
Both sides are in respectable form having lost just once in their last four, with Fulham winning twice and Hull three times.
There isn’t much in the way of outstanding home or away form to go on either. Hull are 13th in the Championship form table, with six wins from 13 encounters, and Fulham tenth in the away version, having won, drawn and lost four of their 12 visits.
In honesty it isn’t a match that I have a strong opinion on at all and would be unsurprised whichever way it goes.
Usually, this means that the sensible play is just to go for the draw, though I’ll add all three outcomes to my Syndicate.
Tottenham vs. Liverpool
Stat: Liverpool are undefeated in their last 37 league games
The big one. A Tottenham side besieged by injuries take on the runaway title leaders and Jose Mourinho would love nothing more than to stop them dead in their tracks.
It clearly won’t be an easy task. Liverpool have only dropped two points all season and are on course for the greatest Premier League campaign of all time. They have only conceded 5 goals in their 9 away games so far and will have been relieved to hear the news that Spurs will be shorn of Harry Kane indefinitely.
It is, however, exactly the sort of challenge that Jose Mourinho used to thrive on. 2004 Mourinho would embrace the opportunity to orchestrate a backs-against-the-wall, us-against-the-world performance. Does he still have the fire in him?
It will almost certainly be the first time we see the Spurs bus well and truly parked. You can expect Mourinho to field virtually every defender at his disposal with Eric Dier shielding them as though his life depends on it. It’s not going to be pretty and I don’t think it’s going to be effective.
The problem with parking the bus against Liverpool is that you’re not just dealing with their daunting front three. You also have the marauding full backs tearing down the wings and delivering devestatingly accurate crosses into the box.
I have genuine doubts about Tottenham’s ambition in this game and reckon that Mourinho would bite your hand off if offered a draw right now.
Ten years ago I’d have fancied him to cause an upset but football, with Liverpool leading the way, has evolved beyond that brand of tactical shithousery. I reckon Mourinho’s gameplan will come undone quickly, with Spurs then unable to offer a retort.