Midweek Premier League football and the climax of the January transfer window make it easy to forget that we have the return of Saturday afternoon top flight action.
The FA Cup forced the Premier League into a few days of vacation last weekend. Now it’s back, and the focus can return to actual football rather than transfer chatter so let's get on with what you're here for…
AFC BOURNEMOUTH vs Stoke City
Eddie Howe labelled Bournemouth’s midweek win at Chelsea as the best performance of his reign. It was unrecognisable from the Bournemouth side that lingered in the bottom-three like an unwanted guest for so much of the first-half of this season.
The Cherries are now on a six-match unbeaten Premier League run. They welcome a Stoke side that performed well in Paul Lambert’s first match but struggled against Watford on Wednesday evening.
The Potters have back-to-back clean sheets to their name for the first time in a long while, but the dysfunctional, limited midfield holds them back. Deadline day signing, Badou Ndiaye, might be available for this one, though it is very unlikely that he will start.
I think Bournemouth will continue their good run this weekend. Stoke are slightly better at the back than under Mark Hughes, but the flaws remain. It will be a long few months for the Potters.
TIP: Bournemouth to win @ 49/50
Brighton & Hove Albion vs WEST HAM UNITED
Brighton are in a group of teams teetering above the bottom three. Chris Hughton has seen his side fail to win their last six in the league, finding the net a mere three times in the process.
Goal scoring was always a concern for Hughton this season, and it will be that – rather than defensive problems – that could see them relegated. They have the tenth best expected goals against in the league, but the fourth-worst expected goals for record.
West Ham scrambled their way to a 1-1 with Crystal Palace to extend their unbeaten league run to six matches. David Moyes remains short of attacking options for differing reasons, though, and may well set up with an ultra-pragmatic team again.
There’s no doubt Moyes has improved West Ham. This is bordering on must-win for Brighton, but I fancy the Hammers to frustrate and get something from this.
TIP: West Ham to win or draw @ 4/6
Leicester City vs SWANSEA CITY
Forget Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Lucas Moura and Aymeric Laporte. Swansea City are the story of the Premier League right now.
The Swans were drifting away at the foot of the table. Carlos Carvalhal has not just turned their fortunes around, he has masterminded back-to-back victories against Liverpool and Arsenal. They are up to the dizzy heights of 19th, hope has returned to the Liberty Stadium.
Leicester, on the other hand, fell to defeat away at Everton in midweek. I fancied the Foxes to snatch a victory in that one, and it might be the first sign of a mid-table club relaxing a little this season. Claude Puel will be keen to pull ahead of Burnley into best-of-the-rest this weekend, though.
I have found this a really tough one to call. Swansea’s resurgence makes them a good price, however, and the probable absence of Riyad Mahrez makes quite a difference for Leicester.
Tip: Swansea to win or draw @ 23/20
MANCHESTER UNITED vs Huddersfield Town
Manchester United continued Jose Mourinho’s proud record of utter mediocrity against their Champions League rivals away at Tottenham on Wednesday. Unfortunately for Huddersfield, a backlash can be expected at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon.
David Wagner’s side are in serious trouble. They were picked apart by Liverpool on Tuesday to make it three points with three goals scored in their last seven league outings. The Terriers now have the ominous joint-worst goal difference in the league.
Huddersfield will draw on the elation of their victory over Manchester United earlier this season at the John Smith’s Stadium, but an awful lot has changed since then for Wagner’s men. Defensive errors are now common, and the chasm in quality is looking increasingly tough to bridge.
I fancy this to be a comfortable afternoon for the Red Devils; the visitors could end the weekend in the bottom three.
TIP: Manchester United to score over 2.5 goals @ 4/5
WEST BROMWICH ALBION vs SOUTHAMPTON
At the start of this season, I doubt I was alone in thinking Southampton and West Brom would be comfortably safe. Now, though, this is the fiercest of relegation scraps. The two teams are split by a mere three points, sitting in 20th and 18th respectively.
Alan Pardew has brought some attacking impetus to the Baggies. It was sorely needed, but unsurprisingly it wasn’t enough to avoid an emphatic defeat away at Manchester City in midweek.
Pardew needs to get something here or risk seeing his side cut adrift at the bottom of the table. Daniel Sturridge may well play from the start, which is a huge boost to one of the lowest scoring teams in the league.
Mauricio Pellegrino would have lost his job by now at a lot of clubs. Southampton have not won a league match since late November. Saints are in serious trouble, continuing to draw matches is not enough.
TIP: Under 2.5 goals @ 11/20
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*