Our betting guru Jones Knows thinks Mike Dean will award Man Utd a penalty this weekend and predicts wins for West Ham, Burnley and Liverpool.
Chelsea vs Manchester City, Saturday 12.30pm
Oh, hello. A monstrous football match – it’s just a shame it’s been selected for the lunchtime Saturday slot and such a showdown between the two title favourites has come so early in the season. Fine margins will be at play in what should be a cagey encounter full of chess-like moves between two outstanding managers. Picking a winner between these two who are almost going off identical prices with Sky Bet isn’t something I’m going to waste my time doing. It really is a must-not-lose for both. And the draw at 23/10 with Sky Bet is the sensible play.
My eyes are drawn to the cards market.
The fact this is an early-season clash between two title rivals does open the possibility of a slow burner with not much space on offer for each team on the counter-attack. A point is a perfectly acceptable result for both. That could lead to a low foul count involving two teams that rank low for yellow cards anyway.
In the period since Thomas Tuchel took charge, in terms of ever-present Premier League teams, Chelsea have been shown the joint-third least amount of cards (30) and City the second least (29). That averages out at just over one card per 90 minutes for each team. With referees seemingly happy to let the game flow more this campaign, referee Michael Oliver may want to reinforce that point in what is the highest-profile Premier League game so far and implement a ‘softly, softly’ approach. Something he did for the high-profile season opener between Brentford and Arsenal, where he failed to show a single card.
Sky Bet are expecting cards judging by their lines. I disagree. So, I’m happy to back under 40 booking points (10 for a yellow, 20 for a red) in the hope Oliver allows a closely fought game to flow without the need for him to get involved.
SCORE PREDICTION: 1-1
BETTING ANGLE: Under 40 booking points (11/10 with Sky Bet)
Manchester United vs Aston Villa, Saturday 12.30pm
Manchester United are making a fool of me at the moment but, although results in the Premier League are positive for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, I still feel they rely far too much on individual moments of brilliance to be considered a serious title challenger. There really wasn’t much in the game at West Ham on Super Sunday until Jesse Lingard stuck one in the top corner. And it really wasn’t a surprise to me to see their back-up players fail to match the Hammers’ teamwork and quality on Wednesday. Another poor result – or three – is on the horizon but not this weekend. I’m not fully convinced Villa are operating quite at a level to win at Old Trafford. A nervy home win courtesy of a piece of magic will probably do the job. As it does most weeks.
Mike Dean is the man in the middle for this fixture – a referee with sound judgement but one that isn’t afraid to turn a borderline decision into a big call. I just feel, with the spotlight being fixed on United’s unsuccessful penalty appeals at West Ham last weekend and in midweek, VAR will be paying particular attention to any foul play inside the box. Under Solskjaer, United have won 32 Premier League penalties, nine more than any other side while Aston Villa rank second for most fouls committed in the last two seasons. Also, Tyrone Mings is always a player with a mistimed tackle in him. At 11/4 with Sky Bet, United to score from the spot has potential.
SCORE PREDICTION: 2-1
BETTING ANGLE: Manchester United to score a penalty (11/4 with Sky Bet)
Everton vs Norwich, Saturday 3pm – PLAY SUPER 6 HERE!
Everton are set to be without Jordan Pickford, Seamus Coleman, Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin this weekend. Alarm bells should be ringing for anyone wanting to back them at odds-on.
Not many Premier League teams could cope without being able to pick their four best performers, even against what looks the worst team in the division. I’m not sure of Everton’s strength in depth in forward areas.
They created a lowly expected goals figure of just 0.67 in the 3-0 defeat at Villa without Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin. And their overall numbers when one of those two is missing do take a nosedive. The win percentage stands at 51 per cent with either one of or both Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin in the team and drops to 33 per cent when one or both is missing. The average goals also drops from 1.4 per 90 minutes to 1.1.
With that in mind, I’m happy to get Norwich on side with odds-against on their chances of avoiding defeat. Daniel Farke’s men have lost their last 15 Premier League games, granted, – the longest run in top-flight history with the same manager in charge. However, sandwiched between those seasons was a Sky Bet Championship title-winning one. They have the tools to compete with an under-strength Everton.
Interestingly, the Toffees have lost three of their last four home Premier League games against sides starting the day bottom of table, including against Norwich in 2019. I’m happy to play the away win at almost 5/1 with Sky Bet.
SCORE PREDICTION: 1-2
BETTING ANGLE: Back Norwich to win or draw (5/4 with Sky Bet)
Last weekend’s winners:
- Leeds to have 16 or more shots at 5/4
- Chelsea to win to nil vs Tottenham at 15/8
- Sadio Mane to score first at 7/2
- Liverpool to win 3-0 at 8/1
Leeds vs West Ham, Saturday 3pm – PLAY SUPER 6 HERE!
West Ham did the double over Leeds last season and are perfectly suited to beating a Marcelo Bielsa led team.
Leeds can be exposed when faced with dominant teams from set plays and ones that counter-attack clinically. The Hammers excel in both departments and are begging to be backed for the away win here.
Along with Liverpool, no team has scored more goals from set pieces since the start of last season than the dangerous east Londoners (18) while West Ham also sit top of the charts for goals scored from “fast breaks” (8) as defined by Opta, which is a nerdy term for a counter-attack. David Moyes’ men will arrive at Elland Road refreshed after resting key players in midweek and also in good spirits following the Carabao Cup win at Manchester United, which has backed up a strong start to the Premier League campaign.
Meanwhile, Leeds are still finding the right balance in their unique style of play this season. Taking just three points from their opening five games is their worst start to a Premier League campaign but Bielsa won’t be changing for anyone – this will be a bonkers encounter full of space and goalmouth action. And Leeds won’t be helped by missing Diego Llorente, Robin Koch, Patrick Bamford, Raphina and Jack Harrison.
I really like the look of West Ham to win, both teams to score and 30 or more shots in the match at 6/1 with Sky Bet.
SCORE PREDICTION: 1-3
BETTING ANGLE: West Ham to win, both teams to score and 30+ match shots (6/1 with Sky Bet)
Leicester vs Burnley, Saturday 3pm – PLAY SUPER 6 HERE!
Leicester simply have to be taken on here at 1/2 with Sky Bet.
The Foxes have lost three of their last four Premier League games, have had the fewest shots on goal of any team this season (43) and historically do struggle when tasked with having more possession than their opponent with counter-attack opportunities in short supply. Under Brendan Rodgers, Leicester have had at least 55 per cent possession in 50 Premier League games but have failed to win 26 of those matches. This includes defeats to Norwich, Newcastle, Fulham and a 2-1 reverse to Burnley two seasons ago. When teams allow Leicester the ball, it can prove problematic for Rodgers and his boys – as shown in the 2-1 defeat at Brighton last weekend where they enjoyed 61 per cent of the ball but created little with it.
Burnley are due a slight change of fortune, too, coming into this one. Performance levels according to the eye and when assessing the numbers do bring forward the argument that Sean Dyche can feel aggrieved at taking just one point from five games. Apart from the defeat at Liverpool, Burnley have posted solid expected goal numbers that have backed up the fine-margin nature of those four fixtures vs Brighton, Leeds, Everton and Arsenal. According to the metrics, Burnley should be sitting with five extra points on the board. They can avoid defeat in this one at 11/8 with Sky Bet.
SCORE PREDICTION: 1-2
BETTING ANGLE: Burnley to win or draw (11/8 with Sky Bet)
Watford vs Newcastle, Saturday 3pm – PLAY SUPER 6 HERE!
Whoever stops the opposition’s star man most efficiently, wins this match. All Watford’s incisive play goes through Ismaila Sarr and he possess the quality to be their leader – as seen by his brace at Norwich last weekend. And then there is of course Allan Saint-Maximin, who makes football such a joy to watch when given space and time to showcase his speed and talent. However, there is absolutely no chance that Watford will allow him to run amok in the way Leeds did last Friday.
Just listen to their boss, Xisco Munoz: “He is a top, top player and he is vitally important for how well Newcastle play. We have put together a plan but I can’t say too much.”
Watford’s ploy is an obvious one. They are likely to double team him and when he does wriggle free, expect a cynical foul to come his way. Saint-Maximin averages getting fouled 2.41 times per 90 minutes in the Premier League and no side has made more fouls than Watford this season (67) – that’s 11 more than any other side.
Australian referee Jarred Gillett, who will be the first overseas official to referee a Premier League match, could have a busy afternoon on his hands. My main play will be to bank on Craig Cathcart, who will be lining up directly against the central Saint-Maximin, to pick up a booking at 5/1 with Sky Bet.
SCORE PREDICTION: 1-1
BETTING ANGLE: Craig Cathcart to be shown a card (5/1 with Sky Bet)
Brentford vs Liverpool, Saturday 5.30pm, live on Sky Sports
Brentford are a very smart club. The decision to base their season of survival on clean sheets rather than playing the free-flowing football that got them to the Premier League is one Norwich must be wishing they had adopted. In their five fixtures, Brentford have conceded just two goals, a statistic backed up by their expected goals against figure of 3.92 – which marks them down as the second best defence in the Premier League. A thorough test awaits here though.
Liverpool have their swagger back but the 4/9 with Sky Bet for an away win doesn’t get me excited. The 6/4 for a Liverpool win to nil is a little more tempting, although it could take time for the Reds to break down this well-organised outfit.
Brentford are being rated too highly in terms of their ability to restrict Liverpool getting shots away though. This has led to Sky Bet offering very generous Liverpool shot lines with 18 or more being allowed to be punted at 7/2. A fantastic price.
In their last 14 Premier League matches, Liverpool – full of verve and energy – have averaged 21.36 shots per 90 minutes in that period. This season, they are working at a 25 shots per 90 minutes ratio with 125 being posted in their five games. They are just the second side since 2003/04 to have 100+ shots in their opening five games of a season – with Chelsea having 138 in 2009/10.
To give you a flavour of the value being offered here, Liverpool have had 16 or more shots in 13 of their last 14 Premier League encounters. Let’s not forget, Brentford are a newly promoted team and – naturally – there’s going to be plenty of fear factor on show, taking on one of the best teams in Europe.
Yes, they have restricted teams like Brighton, Aston Villa and Wolves to minimal efforts on goal but this is Liverpool we’re talking about. Jurgen Klopp’s men are a different level and a relentless beast in terms of suffocating teams when going forward. I’d be very surprised if they don’t clear the 16 or more shots line and punters should also respect the 21+ (11/2 with Sky Bet) and 25+ (22/1 with Sky Bet). That 22/1 line would have won in three of Liverpool’s five Premier League fixtures this season.
SCORE PREDICTION: 0-2
BETTING ANGLE: Liverpool to have 18 or more shots (7/2 with Sky Bet)
Southampton vs Wolves, Sunday 2.00pm, live on Sky Sports
I’m yet to truly get a handle on both these two teams, which is proving problematic for prediction and betting purposes. Having backed Southampton for relegation in the summer, I’ve been surprised with their performance levels that should have amounted to more than the four draws they have picked up.
Can they get that elusive first win here? Well, the markets can’t split these two. And I’m thinking along the same lines. I do think Wolves will finish considerably higher than Saints come the end of the campaign but their current conversion rate in front of goal makes them impossible to fancy.
Wolves have struggled for goals with just two in the Premier League this season – an own goal by Watford’s Francisco Sierralta and a goal from a yard out by Hee-Chan Hwang in the 2-0 win at Watford. This is despite attempting the third highest amount of shots this season, behind only Manchester City and Liverpool.
Wolves also have the highest expected goals figure this season (9.2) to back up their shots data. The difference of -7.2 between goals scored and expected goals is the biggest negative difference in the Premier League. If they start taking these big chances, then an opposition team is in trouble. I don’t think it’ll start happening here though. A fifth consecutive draw for Southampton has to be the play.
SCORE PREDICTION: 1-1
BETTING ANGLE: Back the 1-1 correct score (6/1 with Sky Bet)
Arsenal vs Tottenham, Sunday 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports
Mikel Arteta is now in a place of calm and tranquillity at Arsenal. Managers get to that place when knowing exactly what his best starting XI is and are able to pick it consistently.
Three wins across all competitions without conceding certainly has put a spring in the step of everyone around the club and has got me firmly in the camp of wanting to back them at the prices available (6/5 with Sky Bet) this weekend. Meanwhile, Tottenham can count themselves lucky to have nine points on the board. An expected goals figure of just 4.42 is the worst in the Premier League and points to a clear problem with their ability to create chances. That simply isn’t good enough when you have arguably the world’s best striker in your ranks.
I’m all for the home win.
The Emirates stage is firmly set for Emile Smith Rowe to showcase his talent on Super Sunday – he is a huge price in the various goalscorer markets considering the positions he’s taken up this season in a very advanced role off the main striker for Arsenal.
The 21-year-old has been one of the shoots of hope for Arsenal this campaign and could quickly become their main dangerman across all markets if finding a bit of form in front of goal. He has yet to command respect in the goalscorer markets, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang taking up a huge chunk of the percentages. To my eye, his overall sharpness in and around the box is nowhere near the electric levels we have been accustomed to seeing. Meanwhile, Smith Rowe has posted an expected goals figure of 0.68 this season from his seven shots.
A continuation of these types of numbers should result in Smith Rowe troubling the scorers at regular intervals this season. And confidence should be flowing a bit more after opening his account for the season off the bench against AFC Wimbledon in midweek. His prices of 12/1 to score first and 9/2 anytime are worth following. As is the 7/1 for Arsenal to win with him scoring in the match.
SCORE PREDICTION: 2-1
BETTING ANGLE: Smith Rowe to score and Arsenal to win (7/1 with Sky Bet)
Crystal Palace vs Brighton, Monday 8.00pm, live on Sky Sports
Brighton dominated both Premier League meetings against the then Roy Hodgson-managed Crystal Palace last season but failed to win either game, drawing 1-1 at Selhurst Park and losing 2-1 at the Amex to a stoppage time goal by Christian Benteke. Their shots data in those fixtures equated to a goal every 22.5 shots – a common theme to their problems under Graham Potter. Basically, they were having to create lots of chances to score a goal.
That is something they have rectified this season as they are now averaging a goal every eight shots and are outperforming their expected goals data. It’s all very unlike Brighton. Whether they can sustain it though, is up for debate.
Meanwhile, Palace under Patrick Vieira are attempting to become more of a possession-based team than under Hodgson. Their average possession stats are up to almost 50 per cent on average despite having faced Chelsea and Liverpool in their first five Premier League games.
So, what does this all mean for this particular encounter? A low scoring one, probably but the markets are already well prepared for that with just 4/7 on offer with Sky Bet for under 2.5 goals. Those sorts of prices aren’t really my style so I’m going to play a 66/1 shot with Sky Bet as they seriously underestimate the chances of Wilfried Zaha getting sent off.
Zaha always plays on the edge, more so now than ever with his prickly reactions to getting fouled leaving him vulnerable to an aggressive coming together with the opposition. He played a big part in the dismissal of Japhet Tanganga in the win over Tottenham, a game he was booked in, meaning he has now induced eight opposition red cards since his Premier League debut in 2013 – the most of any player.
Confrontation follows Zaha around. Four red cards have been shown his way during his career, with the last coming in January 2019 during one of his many run-ins with James Ward-Prowse. The referee that day was Andre Marriner, who takes charge of this one. All the ingredients are there, under the lights in a derby match at Selhurst Park, for Zaha to lose his cool with VAR watching like a hawk.
SCORE PREDICTION: 1-1
BETTING ANGLE: Wilfried Zaha to be sent-off (66/1 with Sky Bet)