Our resident football writer Ed Acteson has targeted the £30,000 Correct Score – Pick 4 pool which begins on Saturday. He reckons that a depleted Wolves side, suffering from the rigours of Europa League football, could big in big trouble against a resurgent Southampton side. If you agree with his tips then join his Syndicate.
Watford vs. Spurs
Stat: Tottenham are undefeated in 16 of their last 17 matches against Watford in all competitions
Two sides who changed managers after dodgy starts to the season but only one in top form at the moment, and it isn’t Spurs.
Watford have played seven league games since Nigel Pearson took charge on December 5th and have a record of W4, D2 L1 in that run. The only loss? Away to Liverpool, the hardest game any team will face in the league this season.
They’ve scored 11 and conceded just four in that time. Watford are currently on a five game unbeaten run, winning four of them including the last three in a row.
A direct comparison to Tottenham’s last seven games shows Spurs to have won three, drawn one and lost three. They’ve scored 11 and conceded eight. Mourinho’s side have also lost their last two in a row, so it is definitely Watford who enter this with a form advantage as well as home advantage.
To compound Spurs’ woes is the fact that Harry Kane has been ruled out for the remainder of the season and may even give Gareth Southgate a selection headache by missing Euro 2020.
A quirk that stands out in Spurs’ form for me is that five of their last six games have been settled by a margin of a goal or less. This is typical of a Mourinho side and suggests that they are as unlikely to blow teams away as they are to be blown away themselves.
This is unlikely to change away to a team in form, especially with Harry Kane missing. Watford have won two of their last three games 3-0 but those victories came against struggling Aston Villa and Bournemouth. Spurs won’t roll over as easily.
I’m going for the 1-1 draw as my main bet but will back single goal victories for both sides as well.
Verdict: 1-1 Draw
Arsenal vs. Sheffield United
Stat: There have been under 2.5 goals scored in Sheff Utd’s last 6 Premier League games
The Gunners looked as though they’d turned a corner after beating Manchester United 2-0 before taking a 1-0 lead in a dominant start away to Palace. However, there’s no quick fix to Arsenal’s deeply ingrained issues and, one meltdown later, they drew the game 1-1 and with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sent off after a horrendous challenge. He’ll miss a couple of games now and will be a huge loss, having single-handedly led Arsenal’s attack this season.
This week they come up against a Sheffield United side who are unfathomably sitting sixth in the table after nearly two thirds of the season, having arrested a mini-slump by beating West Ham 1-0 last week. The Blades have lost their last two matches away from home but, once again, you can offer mitigation by pointing out that they faced Manchester City and Liverpool.
Prior to those defeats, they had been remarkably solid on their travels and have an away record for the season of won three, drawn six and lost two. Arsenal haven’t found the Emirates to be a happy hunting ground recent and have only won one of their last seven league fixtures at the ground, though that was admittedly their most recent game their against United.
With Aubameyang out, Arsenal will be far less of a threat. We already know that Sheffield United will play for the draw because that tends to be their gameplan on the road.
I’ll take another draw, this time 0-0, but will perm the low-scoring Arsenal wins as well.
Verdict: 0-0 Draw
Southampton vs. Wolves
Stat: Southampton are undefeated in their last 5 league games
The notion that Southampton would be favourites for this encounter would have seemed very far-fetched a couple of months ago.
Yet as the Saints have come back into fantastic form, the vicious cycle of Thursday-Sunday games in the Europa League has finally caught up with Wolves who are plagued with injuries and on a bad run.
A 1-0 loss to Liverpool was a perfectly reasonable result for Nuno Esperito Santo’s men. However, a loss to Watford and draw at home to Newcastle certainly wasn’t.
Southampton, on the other hand, are unbeaten in five and have won four of them, including taking the huge scalps of Leicester, Spurs and Chelsea. They have flown up the table and are now well clear of relegation danger. In fact, they could draw level on points with Wolves if they win.
Wolves are in dire straits and reportedly will have as little as 12 senior players available this week, having been forced to recall Ryan Giles from his loan spell at Shrewsbury in League One to make up the numbers.
Given their differing trajectories at the moment I can’t see anything but a Saints win. Five of Southampton’s eight victories this season have been by a single goal, whereas four of Wolves’ five losses were also by that margin. 2-1 to Southampton.
Verdict: Southampton 2-1
Newcastle vs. Chelsea
Stat: Chelsea have won 6 of their last 7 games against Newcastle in all competitions
After a promising run of five victories in nine matches across November and December, Newcastle have entered a slump and now possess just a single win in their last six, as well as four defeats.
They’ve had a fairly tough run in fairness, with matches against Manchester United, Leicester and Wolves. However, they face Chelsea this weekend meaning it isn’t likely to get easier.
Chelsea’s form has almost been the reverse. After a festive wobble that saw them lose five matches in seven, they seem to be returning to form and are unbeaten in three, winning two of them.
The Blues have been majestic away from home this season with a record of W7, D1 , L3. Conversely, Newcastle’s home record of W4, D4, L3 isn’t as pretty, though is neither disastrous.
Frank Lampard’s side haven’t been shy in front of goal and have only failed to score in 4 of their 22 games, scoring two or more in ten of them. Newcastle have kept five clean sheets and conceded twice or more in 9 of them. Do you see where I’m going with this?
I have a sneaking suspicion that Newcastle are going to take a hiding here so am going to back Chelsea to win 3-0 or worse.
Verdict: 0-3 Chelsea
Fancy a punt on this weekend’s action? Why not have a go at one of our football pools.