This has been a delightful week to be a football fan. That’s what midweek European competition does for those of us who commit hours a day to the game. Amidst the tedium of one-goal matches, we occasionally get a week like this.
The pressure is now on the Saturday matches to keep up those standards. Here are the five 3pm Premier League kick-offs, along with what we should expect…
AFC BOURNEMOUTH vs NEWCASTLE UNITED
Bournemouth sit in 10th just a couple of wins away from safety on 31 points. It all looked very comfortable before defeat to Huddersfield last time out, but the Cherries are looking over their shoulders again. Meanwhile, Newcastle are just three points behind after a massive 1-0 win over Manchester United.
The hosts are on a good run at home, winning their last three. Newcastle, however, are a tough team to beat. The Magpies have only been defeated by Manchester City in their last seven. It’s tricky to pick a clear winner.
There have been over 2.5 goals in nine of Bournemouth’s last 10. At EVS, that is a decent bet, but I’m going to go for the slightly safer option of both teams to score considering Eddie Howe’s side have not kept a clean sheet at home since November.
TIP: Both teams to score @ 3/4
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION vs SWANSEA CITY
Swansea were set to be cut adrift at the bottom of the Premier League. Then the likeable Carlos Carvalhal appeared, worked some magic, and the Swans have the sixth-best record over the last six matches in the league.
The wins over Arsenal and Liverpool grabbed attention, but the Welsh club are now a far more organised unit defensively, conceding only three in their last five. Brighton have been plodding along just as they have all season. Chris Hughton’s side are unbeaten in three and one point above their visitors.
Both of these teams are on course to be safe this season. Hughton and Carvalhal have their sides defending solidly at the moment, which could lead to a turgid affair on the south coast.
TIP: Under 2.5 goals @ 13/25
BURNLEY vs SOUTHAMPTON
Burnley’s decline was inevitable. Their abrupt fall from competition for European places has yet to see them lose seventh-place, despite the Clarets having not won in their last 10 Premier League outings.
Southampton are still in the bottom three, having suffered a setback with defeat to Liverpool last time out, which brought an end to a four-match unbeaten run in the league. Saints are in need of goals from January signing Guido Carrillo.
Drawing with Manchester City in their last match shows Sean Dyche’s side still have that knack for the improbable. Southampton will likely have the vast majority of possession at Turf Moor, but we know that does not bother Burnley. A low-scoring affair beckons.
TIP: Under 2.5 goals @ 12/15
LIVERPOOL vs WEST HAM UNITED
Unsurprisingly, Liverpool have a formidable home record, having not lost at Anfield all season. This match is an opportunity to overtake Manchester United and go into second place, with the Red Devils hosting Chelsea on Sunday.
West Ham have been harder to beat under David Moyes, which has seen them build a four-point cushion to the bottom three. Moyes’ side have the sixth-best record in the league over the last 10 matches, taking 16 points over that period.
Manuel Lanzini is unlikely to feature, but the in-form Marko Arnautovic will give the Hammers hope of a shock. I fancy the visitors to find the net, even though Liverpool will likely still come out comfortable victors.
TIP: Both teams to score @ 22/25
WEST BROMWICH ALBION vs Huddersfield Town
Alan Pardew is on the cusp of losing his job at the Hawthorns. The antics at their warm weather training in Barcelona have the club in turmoil, but their league position may force Pardew to stick with the senior players involved in the infamous taxi incident.
Daniel Sturridge will miss out with injury for the hosts, who have won just once in their last 25 Premier League matches. Huddersfield notched a crucial 4-1 win over Bournemouth in their last league match. Their form is poor too, though. The Terriers have failed to score in 10 of their last 12 away from home.
Meetings of two out-of-form sides are always hard to call. The Baggies are showing signs of a sinking ship, but Huddersfield have been dire away all year. I think Pardew might just get enough to save his job.
TIP: West Brom to win @ 10/11
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*