SoccerWinners - EPL Week 31 picks

by SHR

Arsenal v Liverpool - Arsenal have built up an impressive sequence of 6 wins, and they're now challenging Manchester City for 2nd place in the Premier League. Some of the teams they beat were a bit weak, but it is a good set of results. The last team to beat them was Tottenham at the beginning of February. They have scored 2 or more in every game since that defeat, so the early season problems have been overcome. Defensively they are not quite so strong, conceding 1 goal per game on average. Liverpool have also been on a good run. They won 8 out of the last 10, drew 1, and lost 1. The defeat was 2 weeks ago, against ManU (1-2). The wins were against slightly stronger teams than Arsenal's sequence. The recent stats are also looking quite similar, with about 2 goals per game scored and 1 goal conceded. However, for the season as a whole Liverpool's performance looks a lot worse. Successive defeats in November against Newcastle, Chelsea and Crystal Palace severely dented their Premiership hope this season. With both teams back in top form it should be a close contest and definitely worth watching. The computer favours Arsenal, with a very high 58% chance of winning. I think that is a little bit too high. Head-to-head the teams have been evenly matched in recent years. Although Liverpool only managed a draw in the reverse fixture back in December, they had not yet fully recovered their form. I think Arsenal have the better chances, but with odds for at only 1.89 I don't think there is any value. I will put a small bet on a draw at 3.85.

Everton v Southampton - Everton look fairly safe from relegation. There isn't much they can do to improve their league position, so the season is pretty much over. That might give them a few problems with motivation. Their recenet results have been mixed. They beat QPR and Newcastle, but lost against Stoke and Arsenal. Their stats look quite weak, especially the shots at goal, although they still seem to score well over all. Southampton have dropped to 6th in the table, which is still a great achievement for them. The last 8 matches have been very mixed. The were beaten by Swansea, Liverpool and West Brom, drew against Chelsea and West Ham, and beat QPR, Crystal Palace and Burnley. The form has definitely dropped off. They get good possession and shots on goal, so they will have chances in this match. They comfortably won the reverse fixture in December, and with 5th place still up for grabs they have something worth fighting for. The computer splits the prediction 3 ways, which is probably a fair assessment. The bookies do the same. I will put a small bet on Southampton to win at 2.88

Leicester v West Ham - Leicester are right at the bottom of the table, and fairly certain to be relegated. They have a sequence of 8 matches without a win. They are weak in attack, and defence. There is not a lot going for them. West Ham were looking for a top 6 finish, but their form since the start of the year has been very poor, and they had only 1 win in the last 8 games. They have dropped to 9th, and that is unlikely to improve. Their London rivals have really put the boot in. Crystal Palace, Chelsea and Arsenal all picked up 3 points, and Tottenham held them to a 2-2 draw. The drop in form is obviously a very big concern for West Ham, and the computer splits the prediction 3 ways. I still think West Ham should win. They won the reverse fixture 2-0, and they can rediscover some of that form. I'll back West Ham at 3.6.

Manchester United v Aston Villa - ManU are back in form, and although only 4th in the table they are only 2 points behind ManCity in 2nd. That looked impossible a couple of months ago. Recent wins against Spurs and Liverpool show they mean business. Aston Villa are likely to find this a very tough challenge. Wins against Sunderland and West Brom ended a sequence of 7 defeats (and 12 games without a win), but then they suffered another defeat 2 weeks ago, against Swansea. They have a very weak attack, and the defence is not great either. The computer predicts a very high 83% chance of a home win, and it is difficult to argue against that. I will back ManU at 1.34.

Swansea v Hull - Swansea have had some mixed results. They almost alternate between wins and losses. In their last 5 games they have a 2-1 win against ManU, and defeats against Spurs (3-2) and Liverpool (0-1). The other 2 games were wins against Burnley and Aston Villa. The stats suggest a team that doesn't get much possession, or shots, but when they do they make the most of it. Although they are up in 8th place, their attack is mediocre and the defence is only slightly above average. It makes me think they have been a bit lucky this season. Hull's stats are not markedly different, but they are down in 15th place and in danger of relegation. Recent results are not good. They were beaten by Stoke and Chelsea, and drew against Leicester and Sunderland. The computer gives Swansea a big advantage, but I really can't see it. Swansea won the reverse fixture, but last season Hull took 4 points off them. I think this is a risky match to bet on. The odds for Swansea are just 1.99, so I will put a very small bet on a draw 3.45.

West Brom v QPR - West Brom are in that mid-table section that gives them little to play for this season. Assuming they pick up a couple more wins they will be safe from relegation, and they have no chance of moving into the top half of the table. Their results are up and down, which makes it very difficult to judge their form, but thankfully they are up against QPR, so form is not really going to be relevant. QPR are 2nd last, and have a losing sequence of 4 games. They lost 8 out of the last 9. They have the weakest defence in the Premier League. So, it is easy to back West Brom despite their inconsistency. The computer puts the chances at just 48% (roughly 50-50, a coin toss). With that in mind the odds are quite low, but I will still back West Brom at 1.8.

Chelsea v Stoke - Chelsea are stuttering their way through to another Premiership title. They have a 6 point advantage over ManCity, so it would take a series of disasters for them not to become champions. But they have looked a lot less convincing recently. Draws against Burnley and Southampton are bad results for Chelsea, and even the wins have been by a single goal (Everton, West Ham, Hull). Nevertheless they are very strong in attack and defence, so they will be strong favourites against minnow like Stoke. Stoke are a mid-table side, and would probably be very happy with a draw today. They don't have to worry about relegation, and can't challenge for a European place. I suspect they will try to "park the bus", the way Chelsea normally do against stronger teams. The computer gives Chelsea a rather modest 65% chance. The odds are very low, at 1.29, so there is really no value in the bet. It might be better to avoid this match, but I'll take a chance and back Chelsea at 1.29.

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