PL predictions: Leeds to thrash struggling Newcastle

Our betting expert Jones Knows is back with some midweek prediction action.

Crystal Palace vs West Ham, Tuesday 6pm

“Don’t listen to him, this muppet gets us wrong every week,” tweeted one Hammers fan on social media.

He has a point.

Is it time to put faith in the improving Hammers?

This muppet took on David Moyes’ side in their last two against Burnley and West Brom and my fingers were well and truly burnt. Are they really capable of a top-eight finish though? If they get there it will be based around being very disciplined at the back. In their last four Premier League games, they’ve shipped just one goal – a metric backed up by expected goals data of just 1.94. It’s Manchester City levels of rearguard action.

Moyes’ men rarely make mistakes or get pulled out of position. The ever-improving Declan Rice leads by example in that regard.

However, Palace will have Wilfried Zaha back for this one, they’ve lost all three matches without him this season. He gives them a crucial out-ball.

That was on show in the corresponding meeting between these two in December that finished 1-1 with Palace perhaps unfortunate not to take maximum points as Sebastian Haller turned into Didier Drogba for a split-second which was enough time to score a one-in-a-million overhead kick.

This one will be nitty. It’ll be gritty. It’s most likely to be a draw.

Muppets never learn do they?

JONES KNOWS PREDICTS: 1-1 (5/1 with Sky Bet)

Newcastle vs Leeds, Tuesday 6pm

No matter what Steve Bruce will have you believe, Newcastle have been embarrassing in their last three matches.

Embarrassing.

No goals scored, an average of just nine touches in the opposition box per match and 1.6 shots on target per match. I’m always keen to treat a negative narrative like the one surrounding Newcastle with caution but in this case the toxicity towards their performance levels are fully justified. I’ve never seen a Premier League team so comfortable at 2-0 up than Aston Villa were on Saturday. The lack of endeavour, bite and spark in midfield for the Toon was jaw-dropping.

The end must near for Bruce on Tyneside if things continue in the same vein. The underlying numbers and performance data is now catching up with him. And, the last thing they need right now is a team like Leeds on their doorstep, full of energy, full of forward-thinking players.

And the money has come for a Leeds away win with the 10/11 with Sky Bet offer much shorter than late last week. I’m not one to get too carried away with an odds-on price, but this one is a real tempter.

Admittedly, Leeds were off-colour in a big way in their defeat to Brighton, sinking well below their usual average for shots, sprints and tackles. I’m willing to treat that blip in isolation as the influence of Kalvin Phillips’ direct passing from deep was missing due to his suspension. He’s back for this one and likely to run the show.

Marcelo Bielsa’s boys scored five from a whopping 25 shots on goal in the fixture between these two at Elland Road. It would be a footballing travesty if Bruce gets the better of Bielsa here.

For those that love watching beauty overcoming the beast, this simply needs to be an away win. For football’s sake.

JONES KNOWS PREDICTS: 0-3 (12/1 with Sky Bet)

ALSO LOOK OUT FOR: Leeds to win, over 2.5 goals and Leeds to have 14 or more shots on goal (11/4 with Sky Bet – bet here!)

West Brom vs Manchester City, Tuesday 8pm

An open title race you say? Have you not seen Manchester City play recently? Liverpool’s stumbles have seen even more confidence pile into Pep Guardiola’s men in the betting markets.

They are now as short as 4/11 to win their third title in the last four seasons. It’s theirs to lose.

Since losing to Spurs in November, City have conceded just two goals in 10 games, winning seven of those to nil. West Brom were actually one of the two teams to break through the City barricades in Slaven Bilic’s final game in charge and although Sam Allardyce has given the Baggies at least a glimmer of survival hope, this fixture has a predictable look to it.

“We could play out of our skins, but still lose, so the games against Fulham and Sheffield United will be huge for us,” Allardyce said in his pre-match press conference. Not exactly inspiring is it?

One of the biggest mysteries of this bonkers season is how City’s slick full-back Joao Cancelo has just one assist to his name in the Premier League. He has created 27 chances for his team-mates – the same as James Rodriguez at Everton. That smart build-up play has generated an expected assist figure of 3.45, highlighting the high-quality supply he is producing. To put that into some context, Harry Kane has an expected assist figure of just 1.89 assists this season but has a ludicrously efficient 11 assists to his name.

Cancelo’s influence off the bench in the FA Cup comeback at Cheltenham showcased just what an important player he is for Pep Guardiola right now, setting up Phil Foden for the all-important equaliser.

Unfortunately for punting purposes, the traders at Sky Bet are seemingly well versed with Cancelo’s chance creation powers, pricing him up at just 2/1 to grab an assist. There are bigger prices available in the betting jungle.

He can play a big part in another win without conceding for Manchester City.

JONES KNOWS PREDICTS: 0-2 (6/1 with Sky Bet)

Southampton vs Arsenal, Tuesday 8pm

These two teams meet for the third time in just over a month, so, theoretically, predicting an outcome should be a doddle, no?

Southampton have edged the two encounters with an aggregate score of 2-1 which does make an argument for them being overpriced as the supposed outsiders for this one at 21/10. But making assumptions like that using just the bare result on such a small sample size is the quickest way to skintsville. With a deeper overall assessment of both sides, a low scoring draw seems the most likely result between two evenly-matched teams.

I’m expecting the influence of a fully-fit Thomas Partey to have a massive impact on Arsenal’s results over the next few months. He gives them a forceful ball-carrying option through the middle and possesses all the tools to be one of the best all-round midfielders in the Premier League – that was on show in the 1-0 win over Manchester United in November. When he’s back at full-throttle, Arsenal have a player to take them up the table.

Thomas Partey is 2/1 to have a shot on target from outside the box
Image:
Thomas Partey is 2/1 to have a shot on target from outside the box

He’s also a player that isn’t afraid of shooting from range, which makes him very interesting in Sky Bet player shot markets. He’s averaging 1.48 shots a game so far in his brief Arsenal career, a figure which is similar to his numbers at Atletico Madrid. He’s 2/1 for a shot on target on Tuesday – a price certainly worth a look.

JONES KNOWS PREDICTS: 1-1 (5/1 with Sky Bet)

ALSO LOOK OUT FOR: Thomas Partey to have a shot on target from outside the box (2/1 with Sky Bet)

Burnley vs Aston Villa, Wednesday 6pm

If you’re going to get a result at Burnley, your two centre-backs need to stand strong. And, in Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa, Villa have two excellent defenders that relish a battle and defend their box with great authority. They’ve been part of a back four that has registered nine clean sheets this term. If those two maintain their performance levels for this encounter, Villa should carry more than enough attacking threat to make the 11/10 on an away win with Sky Bet a winning price.

In the reverse fixture Burnley somehow got out of Villa Park with a 0-0 draw despite Villa registering 27 shots on their goal – the second-highest shot count posted by one team in a game this season. Dean Smith’s side attack with such confidence, trickery and ruthlessness that it’s really difficult to see how Burnley will keep a clean sheet. One goal should do it.

JONES KNOWS PREDICTS: 0-1 (6/1 with Sky Bet)

Chelsea vs Wolves, Wednesday 6pm

Wolves can’t catch a break. This fixture will have looked a lot more appealing to Nuno Espirito Santo on Monday morning than it does now. Instead of travelling to a confidence-drained, stuttering Chelsea side that looked under-motivated with Frank Lampard in charge, it’s now a completely different scenario. Chelsea, you’d assume, will now be fully charged to impress their new boss Thomas Tuchel.

Timo Werner could hardly trap or pass the ball properly against Luton. Wolves will get to see the probable transformation into Diego Maradona up close on Wednesday night.

A change of boss in the dugout is always a difficult one to analyse from a betting view in the immediate aftermath. Tuchel is famed for his aggressive and tactically astute style but working on assumptions without using evidence is not a path to profit. I’ll be sitting back and watching with interest to see what Tuchel does with an undoubtedly richly talented, yet out of form, squad of players.

What we do know is that Wolves are in toothless mood in the final third. Recording just one shot on target against Chorley from the sixth tier of the English football pyramid in the FA Cup took pragmatic football to another level. A Chelsea win to nil makes sense, but it’s predicted with absolutely no confidence whatsoever.

JONES KNOWS PREDICTS: 2-0 (6/1 with Sky Bet)

Brighton vs Fulham, Wednesday 7.30pm

Even my eyebrows were raised reading our alternative Premier League table according to Opta’s Expected Goals model on Monday morning. Brighton are the kings of underperforming in accordance to their performance data but it was striking to see them sitting in fifth place in that xG table. As our stats man Matt Cheetham pointed out, based on how many times they have created significantly better chances than their opponents, Graham Potter might have been expected to have double their current points total.

Yet, they remain just five points above the drop zone and still they don’t pass the test with the eye to suggest they are in a false position despite the staggering metrics. In both boxes Potter’s team are flaky. A win for Fulham here would open up the dog-fight at the bottom, however, they have a touch of the Potters themselves. Scott Parker plays an easy-on-the-eye style but creating clear chances remains a problem – as does their ability to concede at crucial times in matches.

This clash looks a classic case of both teams taking a point, something that has occurred 14 times in matches involving these two this season, including in the reverse fixture at Craven Cottage.

JONES KNOWS PREDICTS: 1-1 (5/1 with Sky Bet)

Manchester United vs Sheffield United, Wednesday 8pm

I’m keen to get Sheffield United on my side for this one. Chris Wilder has found a formula that is generating progressive football once again – it’s a shame it’s come 10 games too late.

Trusting the Blades in the match result market looks too risky though as terrible finishing and defending their box properly will surely hold them back at Old Trafford. You can get 10/11 with Sky Bet on Wilder’s boys with a +2 goal head start on the handicap, meaning you’ll cop a return if they win, draw or lose by one goal. That makes perfect sense in what is likely to be a tougher assignment than many foresee for this Manchester United side.

However, I’m happy to invest in the shots market for this one. With the Blades now full of confidence again, their attacking patterns involving their wide players and midfield are flowing. This is yielding good territory and efforts at goal. In their last four games they have registered 67 shots at goal, averaging 16.75 per 90 minutes. Yes, two of those were against lower-league opposition in the FA Cup but they managed 16 in their clash with Tottenham.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side play in a progressive style that leaves them open to attacks on their goal, as showcased by facing 229 shots against this season – the seventh highest in the Premier League. They are happy to leave the back door open.

Depending on your style of punting, Sheffield United to have nine or more shots (5/6 with Sky Bet), 10 or more (11/8) or – for the brave souls – 13 or more (11/2) is an angle to get involved with.

JONES KNOWS PREDICTS: 2-1 (13/2 with Sky Bet)

ALSO LOOK OUT FOR: Sheffield United to have nine or more shots (5/6 with Sky Bet)

Everton vs Leicester, Wednesday 8pm

A game to get excited about this one.

Leicester were excellent in their 2-0 win over Chelsea but had Frank Lampard to thank for that. His arrogant decision to set out his team to dominate possession, allowing Leicester to find space on the counter-attack, showed huge tactical naivety.

Carlo Ancelotti is too shrewd to fall into that trap.

As he’s done in recent weeks – and in the 2-0 win at Leicester – he will set up to play compact with no space in behind. Everton will allow Leicester to dominate the ball and look to take advantage of any set-piece situations – it’s an area they excel at and may prove the difference in this one.

Carlo Ancelotti
Image:
Carlo Ancelotti masterclass on the cards?

Only Chelsea have scored more goals from set-pieces than Everton this season, including the second goal in that win at the King Power and they scored twice from corners in their FA Cup win over Sheffield Wednesday. Leicester have shipped 10 goals from set-pieces, too, and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Yerry Mina and Michael Keane are all huge threats. Home win.

JONES KNOWS PREDICTS: 1-0 (6/1 with Sky Bet)

Tottenham vs Liverpool, Thursday 8pm

Whenever Liverpool trade at odds-against in a Premier League match, my eyes light up.

Yes, four Premier League games without a goal does sound the alarm bells that perhaps we’ve seen the peak of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool tenure and it’s downhill from here. That is easily argued though, especially when looking at Liverpool’s attacking metrics in their four-game goalless run. Klopp’s men have lacked fluidity in the final third, granted, but the most important factor is that they’re still getting into the areas that have made them such a force. Amazingly, they’ve registered 72 shots in those four games – only Manchester City have had more – and posted an expected goals figure of 5.72. All that is missing is the final finish. I’d be stunned if the goalless run continues in this one.

Even in defence, Liverpool aren’t allowing many chances to the opposition. In that four-game run they’ve only faced 29 shots on their goal, just two more than Manchester City.

That equates to me that despite their alarming drop-off in results, the metrics bring forward the argument that fine margins aren’t falling their way. If they stick to the process, then it’s bound to turn. A price for an away win, which would normally be trading at 8/11, can be snapped up at 6/5. It’s hard to ignore.

JONES KNOWS PREDICTS: 0-2 (7/1 with Sky Bet)

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