Our betting guru Jones Knows thinks entertainment is on the menu on Friday Night Football and can see Arsenal slipping up on Saturday.
Brentford vs Watford, Friday 8pm, live on Sky Sports
Fun times in store on Friday in a game that is likely to be sprinkled with goals, goals, goals.
The injuries to Kristoffer Ajer and David Raya have really troubled Brentford in the last two months. A previously watertight and impressive defensive process is now showing worrying signs of leakage.
Without Ajer, who has been missing since the start of October, Brentford are averaging 1.8 goals conceded per 90 minutes – a huge increase on their 0.8 goals conceded per 90 minutes with Ajer in the side.
The Bees kept three clean sheets in their first five matches but have managed a shutout just once in their last 11 matches in all competitions, conceding two or more goals in six of their last seven Premier League games.
Watford arrive knowing full well an incident and goals-packed game is likely to be on the cards.
Since Claudio Ranieri took charge eight games ago, Watford matches average exactly four goals per 90 minutes – only Liverpool have a higher ratio at 4.13.
The case for both teams to score is strong but 4/6 with Sky Bet but is well found in the market. We can dip the rod in and go fishing for a bigger price though when combining the ‘BTTS’ and over 2.5 goals at 6/5. That’ll do nicely.
SCORE PREDICTION: 2-2
BETTING ANGLE: Both teams to score and over 2.5 Goals (6/5 with Sky Bet)
Manchester City vs Wolves, Saturday 12.30pm
Wolves have a goalscoring issue and now have to face, arguably, the team with the best defensive process in Europe.
City have conceded the joint-fewest goals this season with Chelsea (9), have faced the least amount of shots (101) and have shipped an expected goals figure of 9.53 in their 15 Premier League games, working out at an exceptional and league-best average of 0.6 expected goals per 90 minutes.
Despite Bruno Lage overseeing a positive start to his reign at Wolves, only Norwich have scored fewer goals than his team this season (12). That lack of killer instinct has only intensified in the last five games with just one goal scored during that period – a figure backed up by their expected goals data that shows a figure of just 2.4 in those five games.
Yes, they played Liverpool last weekend so they can be excused there, but their previous four games came against Crystal Palace, West Ham, Norwich and Burnley. There is a big problem for Lage to address.
They do have the ability to frustrate City but with such timid attacking numbers on show, it’s easy to foresee Wolves failing to score. A City win to nil at 4/6 with Sky Bet is fancied but is short enough. The shrewder play is to take the Evens for Man City to win and under 3.5 goals in the match, meaning we have the 1-0, 2-0, 3-0 and 2-1 correct scores in our favour.
SCORE PREDICTION: 2-0
BETTING ANGLE: Manchester City to win and under 3.5 goals (Evens with Sky Bet)
Arsenal vs Southampton, Saturday 3pm
The market is skewed too far in the direction of a home win with a very skinny 8/13 available with Sky Bet, meaning there is a 62 per cent chance of Arsenal landing maximum points according to those figures. That is a hard probability to make a sound argument for backing, especially on the back of Arsenal’s timid showing at Goodison Park.
Southampton have shown this season – and for the majority of the Ralph Hasenhuttl reign – that a league position of 16th significantly underrates their true level in the Premier League. Hasenhuttl’s side have scored six goals fewer than their expected goals figure of 20 this season – that is the worst underperformance of any team in the league.
It’s that poor ability of converting chances that does put me off going in too heavy on their chances of winning at The Emirates as is the fact they have won just two of their last 20 away league matches.
History isn’t in their favour, too.
Arsenal are unbeaten in all 22 Premier League home meetings with Saints – it is Arsenal’s best unbeaten home record against any opponent club in Premier League history and Southampton’s worst record without an away win.
Also, Southampton’s tendency for a fast start – they would be fourth in the league if first halves only counted – might just be blunted here. Since the Ben White, Gabriel and Aaron Ramsdale axis was formed, Arsenal haven’t conceded a goal before the 38th minute in those 12 fixtures.
As you can see, I’m a little muddled in my thinking, so when that is the case the draw is the obvious play at the prices – a result which has landed in nine of Southampton’s last 12 away games.
SCORE PREDICTION: 1-1
BETTING ANGLE: Back the draw (3/1 with Sky Bet)
Chelsea vs Leeds, Saturday 3pm
Chelsea had conceded a league-low four goals from 12 games before facing Manchester United last month but have shipped five in three since the 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge – and three at Zenit in midweek. Their much talked about – well, in this column anyway – defensive overperformance is now regressing to a more realistic figure.
They are approaching a crossroads in their season. Is it just a blip? Or will the drop from their insanely high levels allow Liverpool and Manchester City to stride clear and do battle for the Premier League title? We’ll know more after the Christmas period.
What is in their favour here is the opponent – and more importantly, who is missing for their opponent. Leeds have lost nine of their 13 matches without Kalvin Phillips. It’s a win percentage that drops from 45 per cent with him in the team to 23 per cent without.
Plus, Leeds’ style notoriously leaves them very vulnerable to quality individuals and goals can be expected when they play a top-eight side. All of their 10 away games against teams that finished in the top-eight since they were promoted have seen over 2.5 goals, at an average of 4.6 goals per 90 minutes. In those 10 fixtures, Leeds have conceded a combined expected goals figure of 24.98, just under 2.5 goals per 90 minutes. A Chelsea victory in a goal-filled game is the play.
SCORE PREDICTION: 3-1
BETTING ANGLE: Chelsea to win and over 3.5 goals (2/1 with Sky Bet)
Liverpool vs Aston Villa, Saturday 3pm
I was trying to nab a price from Sky Bet on Steven Gerrard diving into the Kop, celebrating a Liverpool goal in this one.
But it’s such a certainty, they weren’t willing to lay a penny.
Joshing aside, the Liverpool hero has quite a job on his hands to stop his former side. Jurgen Klopp’s men have scored in their last 30 matches across all competitions, have scored two or more goals in 19 of their last 20 games and possess the highest expected goals (37.82), posted the most shots per game (19.3) and most shots on target (6.9) per game in the Premier League this season. Yikes.
However, Gerrard needs to be commended for how tough to beat he’s made Aston Villa in such a short space of time. In all four games under Gerrard, three of those wins, his side have covered at least 109km, showcasing a higher work-rate than under the previous boss Dean Smith, where they covered over 105km in only one of his last 11 games.
I was impressed with how they restricted Manchester City to such low-probability chances in the 2-1 defeat. It took a pot-shot from Ruben Dias and one of the goals of the season from Bernardo Silva to break them down.
City usually post an expected goals figure of 2.26 over the course of the 90 minutes but were limited to just 1.04 at Villa Park, their third-lowest tally of the season. That inspires me to believe in the Villa low-block at Anfield.
They can make this a fiddly afternoon for Klopp’s men. A low-scoring Liverpool win is the most likely outcome but I’m happy to have a little more faith in Villa than that and I’ll happily take odds-against for them to start with a +2 goal handicap, meaning we will collect if they win, draw or lose by one goal.
SCORE PREDICTION: 1-0
BETTING ANGLE: Aston Villa +2 handicap (6/5 with Sky Bet)
Norwich vs Manchester United, Saturday 5.30pm, live on Sky Sports
Ralf Rangnick has managed to put his stamp on Manchester United – and I bet he can’t believe his luck.
He has got a squad possessing a talent level that an interim manager usually can only dream about working with.
That was on full show during a very impressive 45 minutes against Crystal Palace.
Our betting angle of Manchester United leading at half-time somehow failed to land but there was enough evidence to keep the faith with the intensive fast start theory with a Rangnick managed United. They had 12 shots and won seven corners in the first half against Palace. I’m expecting similar domination against the worst team in the Premier League. Norwich have played seven games against sides currently in top half of table, without scoring a single goal, conceding 19 in those seven games.
They look a side destined to finish bottom of the table owing to an alarming lack of quality in both boxes. The 10/11 with Sky Bet for them to end up bottom of the pile still is worth consideration. It’s unfortunate for them to be running into a revitalised United. Aided by a fast start, I can see them winning both halves.
SCORE PREDICTION: 0-3
BETTING ANGLE: Manchester United to win both halves (11/4 with Sky Bet)
Burnley vs West Ham, Sunday 2pm
The Hammers have lost just two of their last 18 games away from home against teams that finished ninth or lower according to last season’s table, winning 12 of those 18, including beating Burnley at Turf Moor last season.
That was a dominant showing by David Moyes’ men who registered 22 shots on goal, creating an expected goals figure of 2.33 in the 2-1 victory. And they hit those heights despite having Declan Rice missing through injury. Moyes’ boys are perfectly equipped to get the job done in these types of games against physically focused teams like Burnley. They can match them, and then punish them with their array of quality in the final third.
Burnley’s form has been wretched for a while now and the defeat at Newcastle last weekend rammed home just how much trouble they could be in this season. In their last 17 games, they have won just once.
Keep it simple, back the away win.
SCORE PREDICTION: 1-2
BETTING ANGLE: West Ham to win (10/11 with Sky Bet)
Leicester vs Newcastle, Sunday 2.30pm, live on Sky Sports
Leicester remain a team I have no faith in defensively. Brendan Rodgers has got his attacking process moving in the right direction but the whole defensive structure of the team is wobbly to say the least.
They rank near the bottom in all the main defensive categories. Only Newcastle have faced more shots (235) and only Norwich and Watford have faced more shots on target (78). They have not kept a clean sheet in their last 16 matches across all competitions. And, the two goals shipped to Ezri Konsa in the defeat at Villa, means it’s now 10 goals conceded from set pieces – the joint-most with Palace.
Teams that move the ball quickly through the phases are finding opportunities easy to come by. Newcastle have shown already under Eddie Howe that the key to their survival will be utilising their difference makers in attack. They have the tools to make this a difficult afternoon for the Foxes, whose preparations won’t have been helped by their trip to Napoli in midweek and growing cases of Covid within the camp.
I’m happy to take Leicester on at odds-on but their attack has the ability to slice through a flaky Newcastle defence, too.
That means I have no strong urge to back a positive Newcastle result either. Mind you, I do want to get involved in Newcastle’s corner count in this one, with them to win the corner count with a +2 handicap at Evens – meaning we’ll get a return if Newcastle win more corners, have the same amount of corners or have one less corner than the hosts.
Since Howe arrived, the Toon’s more adventurous approach can be seen through the amount of corners being won. Against Brentford they won eight and they won 10 in the win over Burnley. Facing a defensively shot team like Leicester should yield the same type of numbers and that will be enough to bag the Evens shot.
SCORE PREDICTION: 2-2
BETTING ANGLE: Newcastle +2 corner handicap (Evens with Sky Bet)
Crystal Palace vs Everton, Sunday 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports
Live Renault Super Sunday
Sunday 19th December 11:00am
Crystal Palace have lost their last three Premier League games, all coinciding with the absence of central defender Joachim Andersen, whose ability to push up the pitch makes it easier for Palace to control games. They haven’t had much luck putting away lower-ranked teams this season either, failing to win in five games against teams in the bottom half. When you factor in those two variables, I’d be against them in this one at 5/4 with Sky Bet.
Everton are also unbeaten in the last 13 Premier League meetings between the teams and put in a proper performance for their manager in the win over Arsenal. They’ll be just fine when Dominic Calvert-Lewin returns.
One angle to focus on is the game sparking to life in the second half. Both these teams are notorious slow-starters with a patient, no-thrills approach in the opening knockings of a match. Of the 38 goals scored by these two clubs this season, 73 per cent of those have come in the second half. That makes the 11/10 with Sky Bet on the second half being the highest scoring half very appealing. It’s a bet that would have copped in seven of Palace’s last nine fixtures.
SCORE PREDICTION: 1-1
BETTING ANGLE: Second half to have most goals (11/10 with Sky Bet)