SoccerWinners - EPL Week 15 picks (part 1)
Newcastle v Chelsea - Newcastle put together a good winning streak (5 games) in October and November, but they have come off the boils slightly in the last couple of games. They were beaten 1-0 by West Ham and then drew 1-1 with Burnley. Defensively they have done remarkably well in the last 7 games, keeping 4 clean sheets and conceding only 1 goal in each of the other 3 matches. Despite the recent blip it is clear that they have recovered from the early season woes that put the manager under intense pressure. They look good enough to finish in the top half of the table, but maybe not in the top 7. Chelsea continue their unbeaten run, in all competitions, and they are 6 points ahead of their nearest rivals, ManCity, in the Premier League. They have won 11 out of 14 games, and drawn 3. The goal tally is also impressive with 33 goals scores (more than 2 per game) and only 11 goals conceded (less than 1 goal per game). I'm not sure whether they will go out for a big win against Newcastle but they have enough quality to win with ease. The computer predicts a straightforward away win, and despite Newcastle's recent defensive record I also expect a Chelsea to take a win. The odds are quite low, but I'll back Cheslea at 1.57, Away Win.
Hull v West Brom - Both sides have been struggling recently. Hull lost all of their matches in November, and they have only 2 wins this season. With a total of 12 points they are fighting the relegation battle. Luckily for them the bottom part of the table is very close, so a couple of wins could transform their position. Mid-week they drew 1-1 against Everton, and maybe that is enough to give them a boost. They can also take comfort from their recent record against West Brom. In the last 5 meetings they won 3 and drew 2. West Brom have big problems too. They looked ok at the beginning of November, but they have racked up 4 defeats in a row and now find themselves only 1 point above Hull. The goal tally for both teams is similarly poor, scoring around 1 goal per game, and conceding slightly more. There isn't much to choose between them and a draw is a real possibility, but I'll take a chance on a home win, and put a small bet on Hull at 2.46, Home Win.
Liverpool v Sunderland - Liverpool are down in 8th place, which is a big disappointment for them. They really need a top goalscorer. Sturridge is injured, and sadly Balotelli has failed to deliver and continues to make news for the wrong reasons. They have scored only 19 goals in the first 14 games. For comparison Chelsea scored 33, ManCity 31, and ManU 24. 19 would be ok if the defense was as strong as previous years, but they have also conceded 19 (Chelsea 11, ManCity 14, ManU 16). So there are problems at both ends of the park. On the plus side they won the last 2 games, against Stoke and Leicester. They need a lot more wins to compete for a Champions League place. Sunderland have continued their Premiership survival strategy, which means playing for a draw. They have 8 draws in 14 games, which is 2 more than their nearest rival. They have only 2 wins this season, and 4 defeats. I don't like teams that play for a draw, but unfortunately the strategy works for Sunderland. They are just above the relegation zone, and that is where they hope to stay. Liverpool really should win, but their blunt and wasteful attack might have trouble breaking through. The computer gives a fairly decent home win prediction, so I'll go with that and back Liverpool at 1.52, Home Win.
QPR v Burnley - Another fight between struggling teams. QPR are 2nd from bottom, and Burnley 3rd from bottom. QPR have lost 9 out of their 14 games; the biggest number of defeats in the Premiership. They also have the worst defence, with 27 goals conceded. They picked up their 3rd win of the season last weekend with a 3-2 win against Leicester. An own-goal by Wes Morgan was enough to make the difference. Burnley's results are not much better than QPR's. They looked like the whipping boys of the Premier League until the end of November. Suddenly they put together 2 wins in a row (their only wins so far) against Stoke and Hull, and they have followed up with a couple of draws against Aston Villa and Newcastle. It is tempting to think that Burnley have turned the corner and can expect better results in the second half of the season, but I suspect they will revert to more defeats and draws. Their attack is very weak and the defence is not strong enough to compensate. If you rarely score (10 goals in 14 games) and often concede (22 goals) then you can't expect to win many. Against QPR they obviously have a chance, but this is obviously a risky game to bet on. A draw or away win look more likely to me, so with odds of 4.1 I will put a very small bet on Burnley. It is very risky. Away Win.
Stoke v Arsenal - Although Stoke are in 13th place they are still in danger of the relegation zone, and that must have a bearing on how they play. They have 15 points, which is only 3 more than the 1st relegation team (Burnley). The situation looked a lot better a month ago, but a series of defeats (Burnley, Liverpool, ManU) have dragged them lower. They can go for wins against weaker teams, but avoiding defeat is the main aim against the big teams like Arsenal. Arsenal still have loft ambitions, but how long has Arsene been telling us that they would win the Premiership within the next 3 years. So much jam tomorrow! What about today? They're down in 6th place, with no chance of winning the Premier League this season. Even ManU are above them, despite the awful start to their season. Arsenal have only 3 defeats this season, but the real damage has come from draws (5) when they should have won. The attack has not been sharp enough and they have wasted too many chances. Defensively they are strong, with only 15 goals conceded, but it is still below Chelsea, ManCity and even Southampton. They really need to win today. The computer gives a very shaky prediction of an away win. The danger I suppose is that Stoke manage to hold for a draw, but I'll take a chance on Arsenal at 2.04, Away Win.
Tottenham v Crystal Palace - Tottenham are in mid-table, 10th, with a goal tally of 18-21. That's a disappointing set of stats for a team that is normally around 5th in the Premiership. They lost 3-0 mid-week at Chelsea, putting in only 2 shots on target during the match. The attack is clearly not as good as it should be. Crystal Palace have sunk to 15th place, and I think they could be going lower. They occasionally put in a shock result, such as the 3-1 win against Liverpool, and this makes them difficult to predict. However, they have lost against most of the top sides, and I expect them to lose today. The computer predicts a simple home win, so I will back Tottenham at 1.63, Home Win.
Manchester City v Everton - The best match this weekend. ManCity are on a march. They won 4 out of the last 5 games (drawing the other one, against QPR!) and although they are 6 points behind Chelsea I think they can make a real fight for the Premiership. Obviously they have to keep winning, and hope that Chelsea drop a few points along the way. They had comfortable wins against Southampton and Sunderland, helped by a very strong attack and strong defence. Everton find themselves alongside Tottenham, Newcastle and Liverpool in the very crowded mid-table. They have won 4, drawn 6 and lost 4 games. They only won 1 game in the last 5, and last weekend they lost against Tottenham. That makes me think ManCity should have a simple win today. The computer also points to an easy home win. I'll back ManCity at 1.52, Home Win.
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