Everton vs West Ham
Everton have won their last four league games, and while you’d probably expect nothing less against Sheffield United last time out, the Toffees have also seen off Arsenal, Leicester and Chelsea. Things are looking good at Goodison Park – can Carlo Ancelotti take that positive energy into the new year?
West Ham are on a less sparkling run, collecting a goalless draw away to Southampton on Tuesday. That result might have satisfied David Moyes, but the Irons are without a win in their last four matches now – and one-time Everton coach Moyes has never won at Goodison since he left the Merseyside team.
Everton come into this game fresher than the Irons, after an encounter with Man City due to be played earlier this week was postponed; several members of City’s squad have tested positive for coronavirus.
At home, in good nick, and with the benefit of not having played three games in six days, the hosts look like a very good thing to land the win here, then. West Ham haven’t managed a goal in their last two away games, and Everton at 19/20 looks a reasonable bet.
After a quiet spell it would be no surprise if Dominic Calvert-Lewin found the net – he made a hat trick against this side in the Carabao Cup earlier this season, and is 17/5 to open the scoring.
Man Utd vs Aston Villa
Man Utd had to work very hard to find a winner against Wolves midweek – now they face a Villa side who are unbeaten in their last four games, and held out for a point against Chelsea on Monday. Could the visitors begin 2021 with an upset against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side?
Leaving aside that famous but anomalous 6-2 win over Leeds, Man Utd haven’t been outstanding at Old Trafford of late; it’s well documented that the side hadn’t even won at home this season before they beat West Brom in November, but since then it’s not like United have been unstoppable, with a dour 0-0 against City – fair enough perhaps – and then Tuesday night’s struggle against Wolves, which was goalless until stoppage time.
I think Villa can get something from this game, so I’ll chance my arm on the Double Chance Villa or Draw at 59/50. Anwar El Ghazi might be worth a look in the goalscorer market, too; the winger has scored five in as many games, and is 14/5 to find the net at any time on Friday.
Spurs vs Leeds Utd
Is this the one where Jose Mourinho sees his dark-hearted philosophy ripped apart by the righteousness of Marcelo Bielsa, football’s own eccentric Yoda figure vanquishing the soccer equivalent of Darth Vader?
In successive games, Leeds have beaten Burnley and walloped West Brom, but it’s Mou who is surely the maestro when it comes to utilitarian football (Mou-tilitarian football?). So could Leeds slice and dice the Tottenham defence to serve up the most devastating of humiliations for the Tottenham manager?
It’s a heart-warming thought, and Spurs aren’t infallible. But Tottenham’s defence may still be capable of standing firm where Burnley and the Baggies proved porous. And let’s not forget that as entertaining as Leeds are, they can also be exploited – just ask Man United, who clobbered the Yorkshire side 6-2 a couple of weeks ago.
While it would be a pleasure to see Leeds’ cockeyed optimists run rings around Tottenham’s dead-eyed destroyers, the truth is it could be just as likely to see Bielsa’s team suffer a spanking of their own. Spurs should be fresher for this game too, having seen their midweek game against Fulham cancelled.
Maybe goals are the way to go here – over 3.5 is a 27/25 shot, with four of Leeds’ last six league games yielding four or more goals. Spurs tend to run a tighter ship, but it still seems reasonable to expect plenty of goalmouth action here.
Crystal Palace vs Sheffield United
Winless since they rampaged to victory over the 10-man Baggies in early December, Crystal Palace must be looking at this fixture as some kind of respite – but could Sheffield United give themselves a faint hope of survival with victory here?
Palace have won just two league games at Selhurst Park in this campaign, losing to Newcastle, dropping points to Brighton – Roy Hodgson might put a lot of stock in defense, but his side haven’t kept a clean sheet since the first day of the season.
A team that can’t keep the ball out against a side that can’t find the net? The Blades attacking difficulties are all too clear, with just eight goals scored to date for Chris Wilder’s men. Four of those goals have come in December however, suggesting the side are making some faint progress.
Sheffield United won both their games against Palace last season, and given Palace’s current ropey form, the visitors’ much awaited first win is a possibility here, I reckon. Sheffield United to win is available at 3/1; a 1-0 win for the visitors is a 17/2 shot.
Brighton vs Wolves
Brighton’s last home win came in June, and their visitors will presumably be eying this fixture as a potential source of points, given their own disappointments of late – just one win for Wolves in their last six games, despite a decent performance against Man Utd last time out.
The Seagulls have drawn their last three meetings with Wolves, and while Graham Potter might be yearning for a win, he might have to to settle for a point here. With neither of these two teams in the most convincing form, another draw might be the safest bet; Brighton racked up three on the bounce before the defeat to Arsenal. The draw is a 9/4 shot here.
West Brom vs Arsenal
The Baggies aren’t bouncing – far from it, after Leeds gave them a shoeing earlier this week. Will they be able to subdue an Arsenal side that have grounds for cautious optimism after two consecutive wins?
West Brom may be feeling fragile, but they can still take heart from the performance against Liverpool just days before the Leeds defeat. Sam Allardyce will surely be at pains to restore some kind of sanity here, and the home side could earn a point against an Arteta team that may continue to have issues of their own, despite a recent upturn in fortunes. The draw is a 3/1 shot.
Alternatively, Arsenal could go on an insane goal-crazed rampage which would make me look very silly indeed, but live by the stats, die by the stats – and the stats say that aside from the 3-1 win over Chelsea recently, Arsenal have scored one or fewer goals in 11 of their 12 most recent league games. Under 2.5 goals is available at 26/25.
Burnley vs Fulham
With new owners ALK Capital having completed its takeover of Burnley this week, there should be an air of optimism around the Lancashire side right now – but things were going pretty well for Sean Dyche’s side regardless.
Burnley are unbeaten in their last four games at home, winning three of them. With Fulham having scored just two goals in their last five games the Clarets may not have much to fear; the hosts are surely capable of landing the win here. Back Burnley to win at 6/5.
Newcastle vs Leicester
In their defensive way, Newcastle fought manfully against Liverpool to earn a point on Wednesday – even if they benefited from some wonky finishing from the Merseyside team.
Steve Bruce’s side might even have nicked the win themselves – and in fact, the Magpies haven’t been all bad at St James Park this season, in terms of results at least. The fans may clamour for a more attractive or ambitious type of football, but Newcastle are unbeaten in their last three home matches.
That doesn’t mean Leicester can’t win this one – I just think it could be tight. The Foxes are 8/13 to take the victory, but under 2.5 goals at Evens might make more sense; two or fewer goals have been scored in six of Newcastle’s last eight league games.
Chelsea vs Man City
Man City have not been at their best for much of the season but are still just seven points behind leaders Liverpool, with two games in hand.
Like City, Chelsea have accumulated 26 points too – but Frank Lampard’s side have earned a reputation for being flat track bullies, failing to beat anyone in the top half of the table. Lampard’s decision to publicly criticise his players after recent disappointing performances might not be the best way to get his team playing for him either.
City are in decent shape with one loss in their last 12 outings, and Pep can take all three points against a Chelsea team that have taken one win in their last five league games. Back City to win at 5/4.
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