Monk's men to Swan to success
Andy Schooler and Ben Coley preview Saturday's games in the Premier League with Swansea and Everton fancied to win.
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Our team got off to a fine start with winners on all three days of action as the Premier League returned last weekend, and bid to continue that with match-by-match verdicts for Saturday's six games.
Andy thinks Everton will serve it up to Arsenal in the evening kick-off, taking the opportunity to attack down the right where Arsenal will be at their most vulnerable.
Ben meanwhile thinks Diego Costa will thrive for Chelsea as they take care of Leicester, while Swansea could make it two defeats in the space of five days for newly-promoted Burnley.
Here are our best bets and scoreline verdicts:
Aston Villa v Newcastle (1245 BST)
Even the most on-the-ball of Premier League judges will have found these sides hard to assess prior to the season, and it's hard to know what we learned last week. Newcastle emerged with credit but without points after their home defeat to Manchester City, whereas Villa caused an upset by beating Stoke for their first away win since New Year's Day. The bare form would therefore point you to Villa, but they seemed to relish soaking up Stoke pressure and pouncing on the break and may therefore be hindered by a need for impetus at home. Conversely, Newcastle had a tune-up without the ball against the title holders and while it's too early to judge their summer signings, there was certainly encouragement to be taken from their collective efforts. At the odds available, I'd lean towards Newcastle here and 11/10 in the draw-no-bet market seems fair enough. The Magpies have held the Indian sign over Villa for the last few years, winning four and drawing two of their last six meetings, and it was at Villa Park where they won their first away league game last season thanks to goals from Hatem Ben Arfa and Yoan Gouffran. However, Villa's previously abject home record took a noticeable turn for the better towards the back-end of last season, with three wins and a draw from their last five, including a dent in Chelsea's title ambitions, so they're not easy to oppose. Instead, I'll return to Cabella for a small first goalscorer bet at 9/1. As mentioned, Villa impressed defensively last weekend but they've questions to answer going forward with Christian Benteke still sidelined, and Newcastle's pacy approach could reap rewards if they can adopt similar tactics to those Paul Lambert himself employed at Stoke. Narrowing down the options isn't straightforward, but it was Cabella who caught the eye with his darting runs from midfield and he's bought into the way of life in the north east, already making a point of thanking the fans for the special atmosphere they created on Sunday. Alan Pardew has described him as a "special player" and while there's guesswork involved, the feeling is he'll prove dangerous on the road as he was at Montpellier.
Verdict: Aston Villa 0 Newcastle 1 (BC)
Aston Villa have scored exactly one goal in six of their last seven Barclays Premier League games against Newcastle.
Newcastle have taken 13 points from their last five Barclays Premier League encounters with Aston Villa.
Aston Villa have won only nine of their last 31 Premier League home games.
Chelsea v Leicester (1500)
Monday Night Football provided real encouragement for Chelsea, their backers and their fans as they produced some scintillating stuff to beat Burnley at Turf Moor. With the Clarets odds-on for relegation before a ball was kicked in anger, it's possible to argue that there's been a bookmaker overreaction to the game in terms of the Premier League ante-post market, but of all the title contenders it was Chelsea who really made a statement on the opening weekend. All of which confirms that Leicester's start to the season, which began with a hard-fought 2-2 draw with Everton last Saturday, is an extremely tough one. That they'll have to make the journey south without last season's Championship Player of the Year, Danny Drinkwater, is also a concern. The midfielder left the field after 39 minutes last weekend and while he'll be back next week, City will sorely miss him in the meantime. Also absent is Matty James, but former Aston Villa midfielder Marc Albrighton is expected to return alongside Jamie Vardy, and both need keeping an eye on with Chelsea's defence far from watertight at Burnley. Jose Mourinho appears to have no such problems, indeed the only riddle for him is which of his star-studded squad to start and when. It appears that Thibaut Courtois is the first-choice goalkeeper and that may spell the end of Petr Cech's superb career at the club, but otherwise it's hard to see the Portuguese doing much business between now and September. He doesn't need to. In Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa, Chelsea made a bold summer statement and one which reaped immediate rewards. Of course, tougher tests lie in wait for both but I remain convinced they'll be the difference between third and first for Chelsea, who are expected to win this game in efficient style. Leicester are well-organised and much of the side which dominated the Championship remains, so I don't expect them to be pulled all over the pitch and thumped. However, without Drinkwater they're going to seriously struggle to earn enough possession to make a real impact and, scoreline wise, this should be one-sided. Last season, Chelsea won to nil in 13 of their 26 home games across all competitions, that 50 per cent rate dropping only marginally in the Premier League, but at evens and with Burnley having had a number of chances there's no temptation to back them for another here. Indeed, it may well be that Chelsea to win and both teams to score proves the way to go at 11/5 but the bet for me is Costa to open the scoring. I believe that if you take 100/30 about him doing so against markedly inferior opposition, you'll end the season well in front and for now I'm willing to put that theory to the test.
Verdict: Chelsea 2 Leicester 0 (BC)
Chelsea have kept seven clean sheets in their last eight Premier League games at Stamford Bridge.
Cesc Fabregas has assisted 50 goals in his last 104 Premier League appearances.
Leicester won 14 of their 23 away games in the Championship last season, three more than any other side.
Crystal Palace v West Ham (1500)
The management situation at Selhurst Park makes this a tricky one to approach in terms of a bet. Rocked by the departure of Tony Pulis two days before the start of the season, the Eagles coped admirably at Arsenal last weekend when only a last-minute Aaron Ramsey goal saw them beaten. However, my assessment is it would have been easier to get up for that game with the loss of Pulis coming so close to kick-off. Most of the prep work would have been done. For this one, caretaker Keith Millen has been in charge, bringing his ideas – bound to be at least slightly different to that of Pulis – to the table. Throw in the will-they-won’t-they saga of messrs Sherwood and Mackay this week and it’s fair to say the players may be a tad confused by the whole sorry mess. Were they playing anyone of note, it would be easy to oppose Palace. As it is, they are up against a club which always seems to be in a state of unhappiness. That’s the case this week after an opening-day home defeat to Spurs, one which came despite the Hammers having an extra man for long periods. Sam Allardyce was immediately bemoaning old problems of failing to take chances. With no Andy Carroll again for months, those problems may well continue for some time. With both sides’ issues in mind, a low-scoring game looks on the cards. It’s worth pointing out at this stage that Palace kept two clean sheets in four games when Millen took the Palace reins last autumn so it’s fair to expect an emphasis on defending. West Ham scored just 15 goals in 19 away games last term and drew four of those 0-0. Another here is foreseeable, although 15/2 is all you will get about ‘no goalscorer’. The 7/4 about there being under 1.5 goals is also worth considering.
Verdict: Crystal Palace 0 West Ham 0 (AS)
Three of the last five Barclays Premier League meetings between Palace and West Ham have ended as 1-0 wins for the Eagles.
West Ham claimed one win from five London derbies away from home last season (D1 L3).
After going three entire Premier League seasons (& 97 games) without a goal, Brede Hangeland scored on his PL debut for Crystal Palace.
Southampton v West Brom (1500)
Southampton impressed in defeat at Liverpool last weekend and went some way to dispelling fears which arose from the sale of numerous players in the summer. Of course, one decent display – especially when it ends in a loss – cannot be trusted as evidence that all be now be fine at St Mary’s. Indeed, the hard work starts now with a match they are expected to win. Given what I saw at Anfield, where they were somewhat unfortunate to lose, they are a better side than West Brom. His skills honed as a player and manager at Ajax, it’s clear that Ronald Koeman will keep them playing ‘the right way’ and there was plenty of evidence of that on Merseyside, particularly in the second half. Dusan Tadic took plenty of plaudits – although his defensive work left a lot to be desired – while Graziano Pelle slotted in well up front. It is early days, but there is definite potential there as Saints look to replace Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert. West Brom are one of my fancies for the drop but while they won fewer games than any top-flight side in 2013/14, they also drew the most by a considerable distance. Old frailties were shown up when they conceded a late equaliser to Sunderland on the opening day but they are clearly capable of frustrating teams at times. I had hoped that given the summer of discontent at the club, Saints would be a shade of odds-against here. However, they are instead odds-on across the board and at no bigger than 10/11 I’m not tempted to get involved.
Verdict: Southampton 1 West Brom 0 (AS)
Southampton have only ever scored five goals in eight Premier League encounters with West Brom but three of those goals have resulted in 1-0 wins, including both matches last season.
With 13 goals in eight fixtures, matches between Southampton and WBA have averaged only 1.6 per game.
West Brom have never won a Premier League game away from home in August.
Swansea v Burnley (1500)
Garry Monk rubbed salt in the gaping Manchester United wound last Saturday by declaring that his side weren't at their best despite winning 2-1 at Old Trafford. Whether true or not, team captain Ashley Williams has called for his troops to regather their focus for a very different test on Saturday as they start as odds-on favourites to beat Burnley. Sean Dyche's side were odds-on for relegation in the ante-post lists and got shorter still following a 3-1 defeat to Chelsea. There were positives - chiefly that they kept the gap to two - but there were also times where Burnley just couldn't get near the Blues and, while Swansea represent a step down, their possession style means the Clarets will again spend long periods with the ball. This will be a good test and give us an indication as to Burnley's survival prospects. Swansea's record against bottom-half clubs last season was very strong and it's worth noting that they had little trouble against the three sides who would go on to suffer relegation, beating Fulham, Norwich and Cardiff by an aggregate of 7-0 at home, and given that I'm expecting Burnley to finish bottom of the table a small bet on Swansea (-2) at 5/1 is the way to play this game. The Swans have plenty about them in attack with Gylfi Sigurdsson and Wilfried Bony in particular the envy of many clubs in this division, and an early goal could see them run riot.
Verdict: Swansea 3 Burnley 0 (BC)
This will be the first time Swansea and Burnley have met in the top-flight; they have met previously in the second, third and fourth tiers of English football.
Only one of Gylfi Sigurdsson's eight Premier League goals for Swansea has come at home.
Wilfried Bony has scored five goals in his last five Premier League appearances.Everton v Arsenal (1730)
Everton won this fixture at a canter, 3-0, back in April and after a disappointing draw at Leicester on the opening day will be particularly keen to put three points on the board. Last season’s win actually left the fate of fourth place in the Toffees’ hands but they faltered on the run-in. In was the top and tail of their season which ultimately cost them a Champions League spot – it should be noted Everton drew their opening three league games last term to add to their reputation of slow starters. They won’t have things easy here either, although Arsenal are not exactly firing on all cylinders yet. The Community Shield was very much a pre-season friendly in terms of the experimental line-ups and since then they’ve needed a last-minute goal to beat Crystal Palace and failed to score against Besiktas in Turkey. The good news for the Gunners is that their German World Cup-winning trio will be available again for this one, although it’s hard to see Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski all starting, especially with the return leg against Besiktas to come on Wednesday. One man who definitely won’t is Mikel Arteta – injured for a clash against his old club. I mentioned the 3-0 game last season for a reason – the way Everton went about their business may well be relevant here. That day the Toffees had plenty of joy against Nacho Monreal down the Arsenal left with Romelu Lukaku having a field day having been pushed into a wider-than-usual position. Seamus Coleman, who made the PFA team of the season for his attacking efforts from right-back, will also provide real threat on that flank – he’s now been declared fully fit and ready to play. I’d expect Everton to target that area again – Monreal is likely to play with Kieran Gibbs injured – so in terms of a bet I’m drawn towards the 25/1 being dangled by BetVictor about Coleman being named man of the match; he’s 14s elsewhere. The Irishman was much-talked-about last season on TV and Sky Sports will again be deciding the winner here. He’ll likely be one they are keeping an eye on so the price looks big. For those fancying an Arsenal win, Calum Chambers in the same market could also offer value. He’s been arguably Arsenal’s best player in their games thus far and a good display in anything but an Everton win could easily see the young Englishman catch the Sky eye. The defender is 33/1 but shouldn’t be.
Verdict: Everton 2 Arsenal 1 (AS)
Everton’s victory against Arsenal in April ended a run of 13 without one against the Gunners in the Barclays Premier League.
Arsenal have now gone four games without a win against Everton, their worst such run in the Premier League.
Arsenal have not won their opening two league games since 2009 (which included a win against Everton).
- Preview posted at 1635 BST 21/08/2014