Chris Bland returns to preview three of the biggest fixtures this Sunday, including Crystal Palace vs. Leicester and Everton vs. Tottenham in the Premier League, as well as AC Milan vs. Lazio in Serie A. Despite their good record against Leicester over the past couple of seasons, he feels strongly that The Foxes are simply too good to oppose this time round. Read on for Chris’ Sunday tips to help tackle the £10,000 Pick 8.
Crystal Palace vs. Leicester City
Leicester City travel to Crystal Palace in the first instalment of Super Sunday as they look to build on last weekend’s humiliation of Southampton.
Nine changes on Tuesday, in a win at Burton in the Carabao Cup, failed to upset their form and they coasted to a 3-1 win. Youri Tielemans and James Maddison were amongst the scorers and Brendan Rodgers’ side will be brimming with confidence.
Surprise package Crystal Palace lie in 6th, with last weekend’s point away at Arsenal carrying on their rich vein of form. Confident in their ability to shock the big boys, they will look to do the same at Selhurst Park on Sunday and frustrate Brendan Rodgers’ side, who could move up to 2nd with victory.
The stand out statistic which has been touched on by many this season is how the Foxes are massively over-performing their expected goals (xG) which begs the question how long can they continue to be so clinical in front of goal. 25 goals compared to an xG of 13.31 is a massive difference, however it is worth noting that 21 goals have come from an xG of 11.93 from open play.
This shows that they are still creating enough chances from open play to score over one per game and don’t rely on set pieces, which does bode well despite the over-performing statistics.
Palace are struggling to create from open play themselves with only six goals and an xG of 7.64, with Wilfried Zaha amongst those yet to net this season. Their defensive numbers have also been flattering this season as the Eagles have ridden their luck, particularly from open play. 10 goals conceded, despite an xGa of 13.35, would suggest that Leicester should create enough chances and, when factoring in the tactical elements, Rodgers’ side are the appealing option.
Palace will defend deep, looking to guard against the threat of Jamie Vardy through the middle, however this frees up space in front for the attacking midfielders of Leicester, as well as the full backs out wide to create overloads against Palace’s full backs.
Harvey Barnes and Ben Chilwell gave Southampton’s back line a torrid time on Friday. Ricardo Pereira and Ayoze Perez will relish the opportunity to come up against Patrick van Aanholt, who has been targeted by many opposition so far this season.
Maddison and Tielemans will be fancied to break down this defence and Leicester have shown in victories over Burnley and Newcastle their ability to break down compact defences. Palace will offer a threat on the counter, and the battle between Jordan Ayew and the two Leicester centre backs will be key as, if the striker fails to hold up the ball against Caglar Soyuncu and Jonny Evans, it will be a long afternoon without the ball.
Zaha and Andros Townsend will look to exploit the spaces left by Leicester’s full backs, and have done effectively against the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United this season, so can’t be totally written off.
However, the in-form Foxes are hard to overlook and, although the underlying numbers suggest approaching them with caution, they still possess enough threat to break down this rigid Palace defence.
Verdict: Leicester City
Everton vs. Tottenham
Spurs travel to Goodison Park in search of their first away win of the season, as the pressure mounts on both managers. They slumped to another defeat against Liverpool on Sunday, leaving them struggling in 11th, and Mauricio Pochettino will hope to see a stark improvement, particularly in defence, ahead of their return to Merseyside.
Everton were defeated last time out in the league by Brighton but responded well with a 2-0 win over Watford in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday. However this wasn’t entirely without issues and may have given The Toffees a major injury problem at the back. Yerry Mina limped off in the first half and, whilst Michael Keane and Mason Holgate managed to keep a clean sheet, Sunday is a different prospect entirely against Harry Kane and co.
It is expected the sides should line up in similar formations, with Marco Silva rarely deviating from his preferred 4-2-3-1, although who he selects as his four attackers is yet to be seen.
Impressing against West Ham in the number ten role, Alex Iwobi will hope to be given the chance once again. However, an injury to wide man Bernard forced him wide against Brighton and meant the struggling Gylfi Sigurdsson took the central role.
Theo Walcott’s pace has been causing defences problems and creating space in front of the back four for the attackers to exploit. Coming up against a struggling Spurs back four, and in particular an underplayed Ben Davies, he will relish the opportunity.
Lucas Digne has been a main attacking outlet for the Toffees this season and comes up against the out-of-sorts Serge Aurier at right back, and the 2v1s Everton will look to create on this side will continue to cause the Ivorian defender problems, particularly with the lack of defensive cover he is given by the attacker in front.
However, for all of Everton’s attacking threat and Spurs’ defensive worries, there are similar concerns for Silva’s side. Tottenham are tactically well suited to exploit the spaces left on the break by Everton’s full backs, particularly with Heung-Min Son and Lucas Moura as options on the wing.
Digne has struggled defensively and they look a much more vulnerable without Mina, whose value was shown in the win over West Ham, where the Colombian comfortably dealt with the threat of Sebastien Haller, isolating the Frenchman and allowing the Everton midfield to control the game.
Keane and Holgate will also be vulnerable to the pace in behind, whilst Tanguy N’Dombele’s box to box presence could overpower the two Everton central midfielders in the middle of the park.
It is worth noting that both sides’ xG does paint a slightly different picture, particularly Everton’s, and is in line with the idea that Silva’s side are creating chances, however often struggling to put them away.
Underperforming their xG going forward by 4.52 and their xGa by 3.9, it shows they have at times been unfortunate, and Saturday’s defeat to Brighton was another example of this. It suggests that if Silva’s forwards can begin firing, they are creating enough chances for the goals to flow.
Spurs are actually over-performing their xG going forward by 3.84, which is slightly worrying, however it shouldn’t be as much of a concern against a side missing their best centre back, and who set up tactically in a way Pochettino’s side can exploit.
The tactical and statistical elements of this game set it up to be a thrilling match, and a particularly hard one to call, especially with two out-of-form teams.
AC Milan vs. Lazio
AC Milan struggled past SPAL on Thursday night as manager Stefano Pioli picked up his first win in three games for Il Rossonerri. A superb free kick from Suso masked over another attacking display that lacked creativity and tempo against a side sitting deep and looking to hit Milan on the counter, so coming up against a more open, expansive Lazio side may help.
Lazio themselves are in fine domestic form, going five unbeaten since a defeat to Inter Milan back in September. An impressive 2-1 win away at in-form Fiorentina was followed up by the midweek thrashing of Torino, with the Italian Ciro Immobile continuing his impressive scoring streak, moving to 12 for the season in ten games with a double.
Sat 6th in the league and up against a struggling Milan side, Simeone Inzaghi’s side will be confident of extending their unbeaten run going into this one.
AC Milan did manage an improved xG on Thursday, however a large volume came from Samu Castillejo’s shocking miss in the first half, as well as on the counter late on after they had broken down the SPAL defence from Suso’s set piece. The timing and game situation as to when this xG was achieved is always worth factoring in, and in this case did mask another struggle to break down a defence for Milan.
The tactical battle will be an interesting one, with Milan’s narrow 4-3-3 coming up against Lazio’s 3-4-1-2. Milan’s full backs, in particular Theo Hernandez, are key to providing the width.However, as shown against SPAL, it also leaves them particularly open to the counter attack and for the pacey Joaquin Correa to hit these channels.
If they are left open, particularly on the break, Luis Alberto, who has impressed for Lazio in the number ten role all season, should have the ability to open up the struggling Milan defence. Roma’s class showed in a 2-1 win over Milan where they were lucky to see the scoreline kept to a minimum, so the signs are ominous for Pioli’s side.
Lazio are in fine scoring form with 22 goals this season at an xG of 18.67, and come up against a Milan defence who have conceded 13 at an xG of 13.46. Once the open nature and lack of pace of the Milan backline is factored in, it is hard to look past Lazio in this one.