PL predictions: Man City to breeze past Man Utd

Jones Knows says Man City should have few problems in swatting aside Man Utd whilst there’s more misery on the horizon for Aston Villa at Southampton.

Southampton vs Aston Villa, Friday 8pm, live on Sky Sports

Southampton vs Villa
Southampton vs Villa – live on Sky Sports

This is a nightmare fixture for Dean Smith as he tries to end a run of four straight defeats.

Aston Villa should really be beating Southampton, whose budget and pre-season expectations are significantly lower than that of Villa’s. Remember, it was only three months ago Southampton sold Villa their best player in Danny Ings for £30m.

However, Ralph Hasenhuttl is working his magic on the south coast, building a team that is greater than the sum of their parts. They look organised, players know their roles, and confidence will be flowing on the back of an impressive string of performances. Meanwhile, Smith has yet to nail down his best XI or most potent formation and a fixture against a well-oiled machine like Southampton isn’t what he needs right now.

In their last seven games, Saints have only conceded six goals – a statistic backed up by their expected goals against data (7.77) which has them down as the fifth-best defence in that period. However, during that run, they have faced Manchester City, West Ham and Chelsea – three of the top four attacks in the Premier League. To lose your best defender in Jannik Vestergaard and to build a defence with such strong numbers is a serious achievement by Hasenhuttl.

How many winners last weekend?

  • Arsenal to win to nil at 4/1
  • Brighton to draw with Liverpool at 5/1
  • Leeds to win and over 2.5 goals vs Norwich at 11/5
  • West Ham to beat Aston Villa at 6/4

That strong base means just one goal is enough to win a game at the moment, as seen in deserving 1-0 wins over Watford and Leeds. That might be enough here against a Villa side that look unsure in their own skin and scared of their own shadows.

I’m interested in combining a Southampton win with their shots lines and corner count. Hasenhuttl’s team aren’t renowned for their ability to take chances. That is shown by their record of scoring 5.11 fewer goals than their expected goals figure – the worst record in the Premier League. This means it’s likely that Saints will enjoy sustained periods of pressure in the match in their bid for the opening goal. In their last three fixtures against Burnley, Leeds and Watford, they have averaged 7.25 corners and 14.5 shots per 90-minutes, showcasing their territorial dominance and winning both the corner and shot count in all three matches. I can see a repeat here.


BETTING ANGLE: Southampton to win, to have 15 or more shots, and have most corners (7/1 with Sky Bet)

Manchester United vs Manchester City, Saturday 12.30pm, live on Sky Sports

Man Utd vs Man City
Man Utd vs Man City – live on Sky Sports

I really wanted to make a case for backing Manchester United when first looking at the 4/1 odds available for a home win. United are unbeaten in the last four Premier League meetings with City and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the only manager Pep Guardiola has lost against more than he has won in his managerial career (minimum four meetings) with Ole masterminding four wins over City. The counter-attack style is one that City can struggle against.

However, the racing adage of never trusting one run in isolation is firmly on my mind when assessing United’s win over Tottenham. As Roy Keane said, it was the perfect game for United against such a lacklustre Spurs team. They’ll set up similarly with City on their patch, hoping Pep’s boys will continue to underperform in front of goal. This season, City are averaging their fewest goals per game (2.00) and have their worst shot conversion rate (11.2%) in any of their six Premier League seasons under Guardiola.

Despite the negative look to those numbers, two goals per game is still a whopping average and their overall performance metrics are still as good as ever. Only Liverpool have a higher expected goals return per game (2.4) and post more shots per game (17.9), whereas City still average the most opposition box touches per game (40.4) – a key indicator that teams are still struggling to live with Pep’s style.

And that is exactly what will happen to United, especially without the influence of Raphael Varane. It may take time for City to prise open the deep-block but I’m happy to back them to achieve it.

My main betting attack on the match will centre around the performance of Joao Cancelo.

He is fast becoming City’s most important player in terms of chance creation whilst Kevin De Bruyne bids to rediscover his true self. His link play with Jack Grealish down the left is seriously impressive and results in the full-back enjoying plenty of space to work with in the final third.

And once he gets into these dangerous positions, he’s happy to fire shots at goal, posting 15 shots in his last five starts across all competitions. With City expected to dominate territory, I’d expect him to go close to keeping up that average in this game too. That makes the 6/5 with Sky Bet for him to have two or more shots at goal worth snapping up. The 16/1 on him scoring from outside the area also is worth some consideration.


BETTING ANGLE: Joao Cancelo to have two or more shots (6/5 with Sky Bet)

Jack Grealish to assist a Joao Cancelo goal can be backed at 20/1
Joao Cancelo is a tempting 16/1 shot to score from outside the box

Brentford vs Norwich, Saturday 3pm – PLAY SUPER 6 HERE!

Has a promoted team ever regressed as much as Norwich? Yes, one springs to mind. That would be Norwich the last time they were promoted.

Daniel Farke’s side managed to scrape together 21 points in that Premier League season. Carry on in this manner and Derby’s famous lowest points total of 11 could be under threat.

Their rapid drop-off is all the more confusing when you factor in Brentford’s ease at adapting to the Premier League. The Bees finished 10 points behind the Canaries last season and failed to beat them over the two fixtures in the Sky Bet Championship, drawing 1-1 and losing 1-0 at Carrow Road.

Yet, Norwich arrive here at 5/1 with Sky Bet to record their first win of the season – it’s a price that should really be snapped up if going by last season, but one that’s impossible to get involved with on current form.

Bryan Mbeumo hopefully will be fit enough to return to the fold to partner Ivan Toney, who looked like he missed his mate in the defeat to Burnley. I’m still keen on backing opposition centre-backs to pick up bookings against the lively Brentford front two.

Referee Jarred Gillet showed seven cards on his only other Premier League game so I’ll back the overly aggressive Ozan Kabak to be carded. Since moving to the Premier League in February, the turbulent Turk has a ratio of being carded every 0.36 games. Only Harry Maguire, Kalvin Phillips, John McGinn and Douglas Luiz have a higher ratio of players to have played a minimum of 1,300 minutes in that time in the Premier League.


BETTING ANGLE: Ozan Kabak to be carded (23/10 with Sky Bet)

Chelsea vs Burnley, Saturday 3pm – PLAY SUPER 6 HERE!

The job Thomas Tuchel is doing at Chelsea shouldn’t be underestimated. Not many managers could manage a squad full of so much talent and ego whilst also making sure squad players are fully invested in the end goal for the team. Plus, Romelu Lukaku hasn’t been available for the last three games but it’s made not one bit of difference to the dynamic. And, Tuchel has already won a Champions League.

I still do think Chelsea are overperforming with their outrageous defensive numbers and I’ll be trying to exploit that when they face a dangerous attack over the next few weeks. Not in this game though.

Burnley have won just one of their last 14 Premier League fixtures with Chelsea, rolling over tamely in most seasons. During that run, they have conceded an average of 2.5 goals per game and faced a whopping 18.5 shots per game. More important games lie ahead for Sean Dyche.

A smart way to increase the skinny odds for a Chelsea victory is to back Chelsea to win and under 3.5 goals. Tuchel likes his teams to remain in control of matches in order to keep the opposition from creating big chances. Just five of their overall 42 fixtures under Tuchel have featured four or more goals and 29 of their 33 wins have seen less than 3.5 goals scored in the match.


BETTING ANGLE: Chelsea to win and under 3.5 goals (Evens with Sky Bet)

Crystal Palace vs Wolves, Saturday 3pm – PLAY SUPER 6 HERE!

Crystal Palace are a different animal this season. Patrick Vieira has certainly increased the excitement levels around the place with his progressive style of football. But it did make me laugh slightly that they remain 13th in the Premier League. A position they have made their own.

I’ve got no interest in trying to make a case for either of these two to win as this looks a pure 50-50 game in every aspect. Both will be confident, both will be keen to play at a high tempo. I’ll sit on the fence and hope for the draw.

One of the areas Palace have improved significantly under Vieira is their ability to zip the ball through midfield quicker, led by the busy Conor Gallagher. This could be a problem for Wolves in central midfield with Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho tasked with doing lots of work in that area.

Both players rank in the top 10 of Premier League players this season to be dribbled past by an opponent. Moutinho is a fine technician but at 35-years-old, he is starting to get his timing wrong with his challenges. Saying that, he’s only been carded once this season, so we’re getting a bigger price at 4/1 with Sky Bet than the true probability when you factor in the opponent. Central midfielders Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Declan Rice, Christian Norgaard and Youri Tielemans have all been booked against Palace this season. Moutinho can follow suit.


BETTING ANGLE: Joao Moutinho to be shown a card (4/1 with Sky Bet)

Brighton vs Newcastle, Saturday 5.30pm

So much for a brighter immediate future for Newcastle, eh? The way the club have conducted their business – most of it playing out in the media – has been a shambles. Hiring an experienced director of football to oversee what is likely to be an overhaul of monstrous proportions over the next six months surely was their first major decision to make. Instead, they are making a meal out of securing Eddie Howe as their main man.

Graeme Jones remains in charge this weekend with the club very much in limbo. I was expecting more of a reaction to his methods than the tame showings put on at Crystal Palace and Chelsea. The defence remains leaky and confidence looks drained with Allan Saint-Maximin cutting a frustrated figure in the last two games.

I can see things getting much worse at the Amex in what could be a very one-sided encounter.

Newcastle haven’t scored in four games against Graham Potter’s Brighton, losing 3-0 in both fixtures last campaign. His team did us proud with their performance at Liverpool last weekend, showing serious bravery on the ball and a clear game-plan. They will be pinning the Toon back for large periods, like Palace did in the 1-1 draw two weeks ago. That should see them rack up the shots and the corner count.


BETTING ANGLE: Brighton to win, to have 16 or more shots and to win six or more corners (4/1 with Sky Bet)

Arsenal vs Watford, Sunday 2pm, live on Sky Sports

Live Renault Super Sunday

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Sky Sports Premier League
Sky Sports Premier League

Arsenal are 4/11 with Sky Bet for good reason. For those that are looking for a banker in the match result market in the Premier League this weekend, the Gunners are it. Perhaps backing the 6/4 with Sky Bet for an Arsenal win without conceding is the way to go in that regard, as the Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White and Gabriel axis continues to impress. It certainly worked for us last weekend, when we grabbed a bit of 4/1 on an Arsenal win without conceding. Huge thanks to Ramsdale for that.

In seven games, the trio have conceded just four goals with an expected goals against figure of 6.6 backing up their cohesive play.

They have also yet to concede a goal in the first half in those seven matches, going in ahead at the break in five of those encounters with Mikel Arteta demanding the Gunners are at full throttle from the first whistle. Aston Villa and Leicester were both absolutely blown away by Arsenal’s pressing which doesn’t bode well for Watford, who don’t possess much mobility through the spine of their team – as shown against Southampton’s energetic press last weekend. It’s hard to see how they can compete with a tails-up Arsenal.


BETTING ANGLE: Arsenal to win to nil (6/4 with Sky Bet)

Leeds vs Leicester, Sunday 2pm

Leicester games are a haven for goals. It stems from their inability to defend as a cohesive unit. Brendan Rodgers’ side haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last nine Premier League games, conceding exactly two goals in five of their last six matches. A repeat of such sloppiness at Elland Road should make for an entertaining encounter. I’ll go with a high-scoring draw.

In a game that is likely to be full of goalscoring opportunities, it seems a simple yet smart idea to back Leeds’ biggest goal threat to score. Raphinha has stepped his game up a notch this season, to the extent that he’s scored twice and assisted twice for Brazil in his two starts in World Cup qualifying. For Leeds, he has scored four times in nine appearances with his influence growing week-by-week in the absence of Patrick Bamford’s goal threat. The 9/4 on him scoring anytime certainly has some juice.


BETTING ANGLE: Raphinha to score (9/4 with Sky Bet)

Everton vs Tottenham, Sunday 2pm

When you appoint Antonio Conte, one thing is all-but guaranteed. There will be an instant reaction. Short-term, this is a fantastic appointment for Spurs.

Looking at his record in his first game in charge of a league game with a new club, shows he can get a message across quickly. He won all three of his first matches in charge of Juventus, Chelsea and Inter, winning by an aggregate score of 10-2.

Spurs have been all-the-rage in the match market for this one since Conte was announced with 2/1 with Sky Bet now trading closer to 11/8 as the Conte factor is being backed by the shrewd, market-moving, money.

It’s a relatively kind first Premier League for Conte, too. Everton’s early season zip and counter-attacking brilliance has been replaced by some very stodgy performances that have resulted in three straight defeats. We saw from Thursday’s display in Europe that under Conte, Spurs will take more risks in possession and players are encouraged to make more forward runs than we saw under the previous boss. That should result in an upward surge in the amount of chances created and shots on goal they produce.

Everton have conceded on average 12.5 shots per-90 minutes this season which makes the 11/10 on Tottenham having 13 or more shots very appealing when you factor in the likely change in attacking mentality caused by the managerial change.


BETTING ANGLE: Tottenham to have 13 or more shots on goal (11/10 with Sky Bet)

West Ham vs Liverpool, Sunday 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports

West Ham vs Liverpool
West Ham vs Liverpool – live on Sky Sports

This will be a must-watch.

West Ham are on the cusp of becoming a Premier League force to be properly reckoned with.

There is a major hurdle to overcome though: beating a top-four rival.

Since returning for a second spell at the Hammers, David Moyes has taken on Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United 14 times in the Premier League but has won just once – a 3-2 win over Chelsea in July 2020. More worryingly, 11 of those games ended in defeat.

That probably explains why the Hammers are wildly unfancied in the market for this one, being priced up at 7/2 with Sky Bet for the home win despite taking 20 points from their opening 10 games. Confidence is flowing though and this is without question their best chance of toppling one of the big boys.

The main problem about taking that 7/2 is the opposition – Liverpool are quite simply relentless. It’s now 25 games unbeaten for Jurgen Klopp’s men, who have scored the most goals (29), had the most shots (199), shots on target (72) and created the most chances (151) in the Premier League. However, Brighton did expose some vulnerability in their backline last weekend and West Ham, who carry a greater threat than the Seagulls, have scored in nine of their 10 Premier League fixtures this season. They possess an attack capable of exploiting gaps in behind which Liverpool will offer up throughout the match.

When you throw all that together, this has all the credentials of being an absolute stonking football match with goals and shots galore.


BETTING ANGLE: Back over 3.5 goals (6/5 with Sky Bet)

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