The carnage of the festive period is just a distant memory now. We have had FA Cup action, Carabao Cup excitement and a fair bit of transfer chatter.
This weekend sees a return to English footballs everyday work, the Premier League. As is now a famous tradition here at 888Sport, I will now waffle on about the Saturday 3pm kick-offs.
Crystal Palace vs Burnley
Since Roy Hodgson was appointed, Crystal Palace have the league’s tenth best record. Since the beginning of December, the Eagles have the sixth best record.
Burnley, on the other hand, have won one in six league matches. Sean Dyche’s side were always expected to regress at some point this season, but their stellar first few months of the season means they remain seventh. The Clarets have dropped off the top six pace, though, and are now just four points above eighth-placed Leicester.
‘Momentum’ would suggest a home win here. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Palace finish above Burnley this season, and I think the gap may well close this weekend.
TIP: Crystal Palace to win @ 21/20
Huddersfield Town vs West Ham United
Four points separate these two prior to kick-off. Huddersfield have drawn their last two at home, having failed to find the decisive goal against Stoke or Burnley.
West Ham are on a very good run. Only four teams have taken more points across the last seven Premier League matches, and David Moyes’ men look set to pull away from the bottom three over the next few weeks.
The Terriers are one of the lowest scoring sides in the league. Chances will not come easily against this resolute West Ham side, and I think we are set up for a cagey affair. The form of the Irons makes the price on them to avoid defeat very good value, though.
TIP: West Ham to win or draw @ 1/2
Newcastle United vs Swansea City
Newcastle have staged a revival in recent weeks. It was capped off by the thrashing of Luton at St James’ Park last weekend, and the Magpies will see the visit of Swansea as a key opportunity to increase their safety cushion.
The away side remain at the foot of the table. Victory here cannot take them out of the bottom three, but the Welsh club must find a way to take points from fixtures like this if they are to pull off an improbable escape.
Swansea’s inability to score and Newcastle’s solid defensive record in front of their bellowing home crowd make this a relatively easy call for me - under 2.5 goals is my tip for this one.
TIP: Under 2.5 goals @ 4/7
Watford vs Southampton
Watford’s sensational start has hit seriously treacherous waters. The Hornets have taken four points from the last 24 available, and could soon find themselves in the tension of a relegation scrap. They are only five points above the relegation zone.
Southampton have had an equally bad period. Mauricio Pellegrino’s side have not won in nine Premier League fixtures. Pellegrino is the clear favourite to be the next manager sacked, and Saints are level on points with 18th placed Stoke City.
This is a tough one to call. Southampton have not been quite as bad as their form suggests, but confidence is at rock-bottom. Watford, meanwhile, continue to be shaky at the back.
I am tempted to sit on the fence with a draw, but I am going to side with Watford’s potent attack.
TIP: Watford to win @ 29/20
West Brom vs Brighton
West Brom desperately needed their FA Cup victory last weekend. Alan Pardew’s difficult start to life at the Hawthorns got some sweet relief, but now they return to the real business. The Baggies are four points short of Premier League safety.
Brighton have won just one of their last 11 Premier League matches. Chris Hughton’s side continue to battle, but the lack of quality must be a frustration for the former Newcastle manager. I don’t envisage a change to their game plan for this one, however.
This is a contender to be last on Match of the Day. Victory is a necessity for West Brom, and I think they might snatch their first three points of the Pardew reign.
TIP: West Brom to win @ 11/10
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*