EPL Predictions: Newcastle to storm Villa Park, Brentford to remain buzzing at Crystal Palace
Our betting guru Jones Knows is tipping away wins for Newcastle, Brentford and Watford this Saturday, plus plenty of prop bets to feast on.
Liverpool vs Burnley, Saturday 12.30
You’d be brave to take on Liverpool here when factoring how the return of home crowds had a huge influence on results last weekend. Anfield will be rocking to welcome their team who are now unbeaten in their last 11 Premier League games, winning each of the last six. It’s not quite peak Jurgen Klopp Liverpool, but it’s on the right track.
My punting instincts have been drawn to the offsides market in the hope of landing a decent priced winner though.
With a slight tweak to the offside protocols this season, assistant referees are being encouraged to raise their flag with more confidence if there isn’t a clear goalscoring opportunity involving a potentially offside player. In the days before VAR, Premier League games were averaging near 4.2 offsides per match. That dropped to nearer 3.1 in the past two seasons with VAR in force, so perhaps that average will be on the way up in the next few weeks. I’ll be watching it carefully in the hope of nicking some inflated prices across various offside markets.
For this one, Chris Wood to be caught offside three or more times at 7/2 with Sky Bet is worth an interest. Liverpool are an offside winning machine with Virgil van Dijk back in their ranks and Burnley’s direct style always produces last-line strays in this fixture with the Dutchman playing. In the last four meetings between these two when Van Dijk and his instructed high-line have played, Burnley have been caught offside 21 times. Only Jamie Vardy has been offside more times than Wood in the past two seasons (59), so he should give us a good run for our money.
SCORE PREDICTION: 2-0
Aston Villa vs Newcastle
Aston Villa at odds-on? No thanks.
There is an expectation that Dean Smith’s side will instantly replace Jack Grealish’s numbers with the big-money talent drafted in. However, football is a much more complex beast than it seems on paper, remember it is a team game, and it takes time for players to find their feet within a new system – as it will the manager to get the balance right in that forward area.
Villa really struggled last weekend at Watford, creating a non-penalty expected goal figure of just 0.29 against the newly promoted side and were flattered to score twice. I’m not confident in their chances of creating and finishing big opportunities in front of an expectant home crowd, especially with Ollie Watkins still missing.
I do hope Steve Bruce remains brave with his style of play. If he does, there could be reward in this one at his former stomping ground. Newcastle attacked intelligently and dangerously for large parts of their defeat against West Ham with Allan Saint-Maximin, Callum Wilson and Miguel Almiron all fitting into a highly energetic system perfectly. They can lead the Toon to an away win at a juicy 16/5 with Sky Bet.
SCORE PREDICTION: 1-2
Manchester City vs Norwich
Pep Guardiola’s boys are 1/12 with Sky Bet to register their first win of the Premier League season. Not for me, Jeff.
Of course, City are the far more likely winners but just considering the negative vibes surrounding their pre-season preparation and inability to test Hugo Lloris with many serious tests last weekend vs Tottenham, I’d steer well clear at those prices at this stage of the season.
Guardiola will be in a result-at-all-costs mood, like he was against many relegation-threatened teams at home last season. In their three fixtures with Fulham, Sheffield United and West Brom at the Etihad Stadium, the aggregate score read just 5-1 in their favour. If you are looking for a way to get City on your side then perhaps them to win and under 2.5 goals in the match at 7/2 will be a more fruitful way to play things rather than giving yourselves a squeaky bum backing the 1/12.
I’m continuing to follow my theory that City will be creating a greater number of chances from set-pieces with Jack Grealish in the side due to his free-kick winning ability. That has led me to finding Evens with Sky Bet about the chances of Ruben Dias – an aggressive attacker of a set piece – firing a shot on goal. That my friends, is best bet of the weekend material.
SCORE PREDICTION: 2-0
Leeds vs Everton
Tough one this one.
I was hoping the bookmakers would have overreacted to Leeds’ loss at Manchester United and dangled a juicy price for the home win but 5/4 with Sky Bet doesn’t get me too excited. I do think Leeds will be very strong at home this season though. However for this one, Everton will be set up to frustrate and have good quality in key areas, especially in the forward line. This screams draw.
Raphinha should relish playing in front of the Elland Road crowd this season as their noise should encourage him to drive at his full-back, something he is among the best in the league at doing. This should continue to see his opposite number get caught making fouls and lead to yellow card situations. He drew eight yellow cards last season and got Luke Shaw booked last weekend at Old Trafford. Lucas Digne will be the man tasked with keeping a lid on him this weekend and 4/1 with Sky Bet for a yellow is more than fair.
SCORE PREDICTION: 1-1
Crystal Palace vs Brentford
If you needed any evidence to see how much relegation danger Crystal Palace are in this season, just look at the match prices for this one. Despite having home advantage over a newly promoted team, Patrick Viera’s team are only just shading favouritism at 6/4 with Sky Bet.
Before looking at the prices, I was all over getting Brentford on my side but it seems others are equally as impressed. Thomas Frank’s team look a well-drilled, cohesive unit, that possess a togetherness that was on show during the win at Arsenal. Plus, they have quality in forward areas.
At a neutral venue, I’d fancy them strongly but Selhurst Park can become a hotbed for atmosphere when Palace need them and they will play their part here, surely. There’s still an unknown quantity about Palace under Viera, so I’ll usher away from being too down on them without much evidence, although I am plumping for a narrow away win for a match prediction.
My money will be going down on Frank Onyeka picking up his first booking of the season for Brentford – one of many I expect. He averaged over two fouls a game playing for Midtjylland last season, collecting 11 yellows along the way. The pace of the Premier League will take some getting used and a player with his aggressive nature will be found mistiming a tackle or two at regular occasions. He made three fouls vs Arsenal and was lucky to escape a booking. Not this time.
SCORE PREDICTION: 1-2
Brighton vs Watford
The fascination with Brighton and the betting markets looks to have peaked here. Now, I respect those big staking syndicates that have a decisive say in the way match result markets are priced but to have Graham Potter’s men at 4/6 with Sky Bet is just plain silly.
This is a team that have delivered the goods just nine times from 38 matches at home under Potter, averaging just 1.13 points a game in front of their home fans. And not much has changed over the summer in terms of personnel, as shown by their lacklustre performance at Burnley last weekend. A 2-1 win flattered them on their performance for large parts. Without a proven goalscorer, they simply can’t be trusted – even against a newly promoted team at home.
And, to boot, a newly promoted team that comes here on the back of a morale-boosting victory over Aston Villa. Since Xisco Munoz was appointed, Watford have now won 19 of their 27 league games and proved that getting yourselves very defensively organised in the Premier League makes you a difficult opponent to overcome. Villa created a non-penalty expected goal figure of just 0.29 last weekend. Watford looked rock solid. I can see them frustrating the hosts here and causing huge problems on the break with the much improved Ismaila Sarr.
SCORE PREDICTION: 0-1
Southampton vs Manchester United
There wasn’t too much evidence from Southampton last weekend to dampen confidence behind them being a big price for relegation a few weeks ago. That 6/1 shot is now a 5/2 shot.
They only mustered six shots and an expected goal figure of 0.8 against a mediocre Everton. Ralph Hasenhuttl will need his new signings to gel and bond together fast in order to stem what is a negative tide down at St Mary’s. And the visit of Manchester United is the last thing they need. If they avoid defeat on Sunday, they will equal Arsenal’s top-flight record 27 away games unbeaten, set in 2004.
My long-term view on United hasn’t changed too much despite their hammering of Leeds. I still think they are a little bit short in comparison to Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea but boy do they have some talented attacking footballers at their disposal. Mason Greenwood in particular.
The 19-year-old looked razor-sharp last weekend. Since the start of April, Greenwood has scored seven goals in the Premier League, averaging over a goal per game ratio.
His conversion rate of 23 per cent marks him out as an elite finisher and my eye totally backs up a theory that he’s set to go right to the top. He looks a solid bet to open the scoring this weekend and if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remains brave at trusting him as a regular starter over the season, the 40/1 with Sky Bet (bigger elsewhere) on his chances as being top goalscorer this season need serious consideration.
SCORE PREDICTION: 0-2
Wolves vs Tottenham
If you hadn’t been aware of any managerial changes of the past few months, you’d have been excused for thinking Wolves were still managed by Nuno Espirito Santo based on their defeat to Leicester last weekend. That isn’t a bad thing, especially with Raul Jimenez back leading the line but Wolves do look in need of a fresh idea or two. I’m yet to be convinced they can break anywhere near the top half though. I’m happy to side with Nuno’s new boys to kick on from where they left off last Sunday, although the 11/8 price with Sky Bet doesn’t inspire me much.
One angle that interests me from a betting perspective is Eric Dier in the shots market. For some warped reason, the centre-back rates himself as a threat from attacking free-kicks within shooting range – probably based on his goal for England vs Russia in the 2016 European Championships. He has rarely been given a chance to showcase his so-called talents from range with Harry Kane grabbing the ball at every opportunity but now he’s out of the picture for the time being, Dier, who took an attacking free-kick vs Arsenal in pre-season, is the most likely to step up for a pop. That, added to the threat he carries when attacking set pieces in the air, makes him a very interesting proposition to register one or more shots at 10/11 with Sky Bet.
SCORE PREDICTION: 1-2
Arsenal vs Chelsea
Arsenal have won the last three meetings in all competitions between these two – and gave me one of my most enjoyable ear cupping moments of last season when I tipped them up at 4/1 to win this very fixture. However, many things have changed since then. But the two most important factors are: Thomas Tuchel is now manager and Romelu Lukaku is their centre-forward. Chelsea are a different animal.
During Tuchel’s reign, Chelsea rank first for goals conceded (13), clean sheets (12) and shots on target (117). The basis for a title-winning side is there. So, what’s been missing? Lukaku, that’s what.
During that same period, they ranked 15th in the Premier League for shot conversion rate (nine per cent). It’s worth noting that Lukaku scored 24 league goals last season, four more than the combined total of Timo Werner (6), Tammy Abraham (6), Olivier Giroud (4) and Kai Havertz (4). Lukaku is the difference maker.
Meanwhile, Arsenal still look in the early stages of a huge rebuilding job. They got bullied all over the pitch in the defeat at Brentford and didn’t possess the finishing skills required to seriously test a very inexperienced defence. Mikel Arteta’s young side might get another lesson here in what it takes to play title challenging football.
I’m not one for steaming into an odds-shot but I’m all over Chelsea at 3/4 with Sky Bet. They are a must for the weekend accumulators.
SCORE PREDICTION: 0-2
West Ham vs Leicester
Any plans Monday night? Cancel them. This should be an encounter well worth watching.
David Moyes seems to have a bit of a hold over Brendan Rodgers. The Hammers boss knows how to stop a Rodgers team. West Ham won both Premier League meetings last season – 3-0 away and 3-2 at home, taking Moyes’ record to five wins from 10 meetings in the league against the Leicester boss. In both of last season’s wins, Leicester had over 65 per cent of the ball but Moyes had his team well-drilled to defend deep and hit with great pace and power on the break. I expect exactly the same here with West Ham showing last weekend at Newcastle that when it comes to counter-attacking, not many teams execute it as savagely as them.
This style of football always is likely to draw cynical challenges during those quick transitions and five Leicester players were booked against the Hammers across the two meetings last season. Wilfred Ndidi was one of those players and pulled in a 2.23 fouls a game ratio over the season, making him the sixth dirtiest player in the league (from those that played a minimum of 500 minutes). He is overpriced at 4/1 with Sky Bet to pick up a booking.
SCORE PREDICTION: 2-1