Aston Villa’s excellent winning run has seen them climb to within a point of current Premier League leaders Everton. So can Villa continue to conquer the opposition when they play host to Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds on Friday night?
After a couple of goal-packed matches in the opening weeks of the season, newly promoted Leeds have settled down a bit, scoring-wise – they earned a hard fought point against Man City a couple of weeks back, before losing by the only goal of the game to Wolves last time out.
After Villa’s stunning demolition job on Liverpool, Dean Smith’s team were also less showy in their most recent outing, new signing Ross Barkley leaving it late to find the net to take three points against Leicester last Sunday.
Villa have plenty of incentive to win here, too – victory means they could go top of the league. Still, given Bielsa’s reputation as a formidable tactician, perhaps Leeds have the nous to halt Villa’s recent run of victories. And don’t forget the back story…
Against Villa in the 2018/19 Championship season, Bielsa’s hopes of winning promotion basically ended after the Argentine ordered his team to allow the opposition to score; that gesture was an olive branch, after Mateusz Klich had found the net for Leeds while Jonathan Kodjia lay injured, much to the Villa bench’s annoyance.
Maybe that memory still galls some of the Leeds players. In any case, this week the home side are favs at 27/20, with the draw 5/2, and Leeds 2/1 for the win. If you’re thinking Klich can be a factor again this week – he has two goals already this season – he’s 18/5 to find the net here.
Unbeaten in their last three league games and having pulled off an incredible last gasp draw against Spurs on Sunday, West Ham are 7/1 to win against a Man City side with a number of significant injury problems.
Kevin De Bruyne, Aymeric Laporte, Ben Mendy and Gabriel Jesus are all unlikely to figure for City in this game, while Fernandinho limped off against Porto on Wednesday. With City’s strength in depth, Pep Guardiola’s side might not be too inconvenienced by those absences – but with the Irons impressing of late, could it be worth taking a chance on David Moyes’ side?
It’s worth pointing out that since the start of the 2016/17 season across a total of nine games (including an FA Cup encounter), the aggregate score between these two sides is Man City 30 – 3 West Ham. Hmm.
The Cottagers earned their first point of the season last week; can they build on that to earn a first win, against a Crystal Palace side that managed just one shot on target (a penalty) against Brighton last time out?
For all Palace’s emphasis on stopping the opposition, they’ve only managed a single clean sheet in their last 13 games. That said, in three of Fulham’s last five games, Scott Parker’s side has failed to find the net. This one might not be pick of the week in terms of entertainment value.
After pulling off a fine victory against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Wednesday, Man United’s latest crisis of confidence – triggered by the painful defeat to Tottenham a few weeks ago – might be over.
So can Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side similarly impress at Old Trafford this week? They face off against a Chelsea team that have won just one of their last five games in all competitions. The Blues ended up sharing the points with Southampton a week ago, after a stoppage time goal from the Saints levelled the score at 3-3.
Frank Lampard has plenty of attacking talent at his disposal and there’s a feeling that his side could click at any time, as it seemed to against Crystal Palace at the start of the month. Still, there’s a suspicion that Frank hasn’t quite cracked this management lark yet.
Chelsea were beaten 4-0 by United in this fixture last season, and two of the Blues’ last three Premier League games have seen them concede three goals. Meanwhile, every one of United’s seven games this season has featured at least three goals.
This could be another hi-octane outing. United are 29/20, Chelsea are 7/4, with the draw a 27/10 shot. I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine there could be scoring; you can back over 3.5 goals at 31/20.
Tough times for Chris Wilder. Still searching for his first win of the season, his Sheffield United team’s next three matches after this one involve Man City, Chelsea, and the in-form West Ham.
Before that, Liverpool will surely make short work of a Blades side currently lacking a cutting edge. Even with the reigning Premier League champions suffering the loss of Virgil Van Dijk, following Jordan Pickford’s wild behaviour last week in the Merseyside derby, Klopp’s side will probably end up with something to smile about on Saturday night.
Liverpool are 6/25 to win, with the draw 27/5 and an away win available at 23/2. Both Mo Salah and Sadio Mane scored in this fixture back in January; Salah is 14/5 to open the scoring here, while Mane is a 22/25 shot to find the net at any time.
Could Southampton come out on top against the Toffees on Sunday? Carlo Ancelotti’s side will be without the injured James Rodriguez for this one, and the Colombian has been a crucial part of Everton’s early success since the start of the season.
The Saints frustrated Chelsea a week ago and there’s not much between these sides in the betting. Southampton are 7/4 to win, with Everton narrow favourites at 31/20, and the draw a 49/20 shot. There does seem to be a general sense that Everton could come unstuck here, though.
Not much to say here, except I fancy the home team. Wolves’ last four league wins have featured two or fewer goals – so backing under 2.5 goals combined with a Wolves win adds up to 5/2, which might be a decent shout…
Even despite Mesut Ozil’s unwanted presence continuing to make headlines, Arsenal seem to be in a decent place right now, and I think they can make it three defeats in three Premier League games for a Leicester side that have drawn blanks in their last two league outings.
Maybe I’m just swayed by this fixture’s history – over the last 20 years (and six encounters), Arsenal have never lost against the Foxes at home.
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