David John and Andy Schooler preview this weekend's Premier League and go for goals when Bournemouth host Liverpool.
Sunday Premier League
West Brom v Manchester United (1415GMT, Sky Sports Premier League and Main Event)
United sit second in the Premier League but without the table to hand you wouldn’t know given the gloomy mood around Old Trafford.
The fact that the only side above them are local rivals City hardly helps on that front but grumbles about the style of football continue and Jose Mourinho’s world-is-against-me outlook suggests positivity is not exactly in abundance right now.
Perhaps it’s all different out of the media spotlight but there’s no getting away from the fact they were outplayed by City last weekend and struggled to see off Bournemouth in midweek.
A trip to a side without a win in a club-record 16 games gives them an opportunity to return to better form but West Brom have tightened up of late and will likely be out to frustrate their visitors in this one.
They have failed to score under Alan Pardew thus far but have also conceded just once in their three matches – hardly the start they would have hoped for given Tony Pulis was axed largely for his brand of uninspiring football.
Pardew has, unsurprisingly, been happy to focus on defensive improvement and, indeed, they have been harder to break down of late, a reminder of happier days under previous management.
A goalless draw at Anfield typified that and came not long after a 1-1 draw against Spurs.
They face another of the top boys and I believe the Baggies will be able to produce a defensive performance more akin to Anfield than their 4-0 humbling here against Chelsea earlier in the season.
They are around 6/1 to end their winless streak in this game but if it’s a big price you are after I prefer the 16/1 about Sam Field scoring at any time.
You may not know a great deal about the teenage midfielder but the England under-21 international has been given his chance since Pulis’ departure.
He scored his first goal in the 2-2 draw with Newcastle and is a player who likes to get forward, most recently from the left-hand side of the pitch.
Gary Megson, who put him into the side during his temporary spell in charge, said: "For a midfield player he’s got to be getting up there and scoring - because he can finish."
Pardew was concerned about Field having his back to goal too often and he said about the 19-year-old: "He looks like he needs to come from deep and that’s why we changed his position (to the left)."
That’s all encouraging for potential backers.
Field did not start against Liverpool but that was likely just a case of not pushing the youngster too hard.
He could well return here in which case 16/1 is too big about a player given licence to get forward, even if he is playing for a team short on goals.
It may be a quirk, but it’s also interesting to note that in Field’s six starts, West Brom have only lost once.
Prediction: West Brom 1-1 Manchester United (AS) - Sky Bet odds: 6/1
Bournemouth v Liverpool (1630,Sky Sports Premier League and Main Event)
Like United, it’s all about perspective when you come to Liverpool.
They head into this game unbeaten in their last 11 but home draws with Everton and West Brom in the past week have left them outside the top four – not to mention 18 points behind the leaders. It’s not even halfway through the season and this is a side which harboured genuine title ambitions, remember.
Their past two results have shown up what has become a common problem – an inability to break down well-organised, defensive sides and use their possession to maximum effect. Burnley and Manchester United employed similar tactics at Anfield this season and left with a result.
The good news for the Reds is they’ve had more freedom on the road and that’s resulted in some big wins and plenty of goals from their famed frontline - 20 of them in eight league games on the road, in fact.
Only at Man City, where they went down to 10 men in the first half, have they failed to score on their travels, but at the other end there has been only one clean sheet, defensive weakness also being shown up away from Anfield.
Eddie Howe’s men have fought hard against the top sides this season without getting any reward. I highlighted in Wednesday’s preview their one-goal defeats against the big boys and another duly followed against Manchester United. They have also lost by a single goal to Chelsea, Spurs and City. Another one-goal loss in this one is 11/4.
It could well happen again but given the goals in this Liverpool side, equally they could take a pummelling. After all, Liverpool’s last six away games (all competitions) have resulted in goal tallies for the visitors of 5-3-3-4-1-7.
I’d prefer to keep things simpler and go for both teams to score at 3/4.
Those one shutout, one clean sheet stats in away games for Liverpool do sum them up and it should be remembered last season’s equivalent fixture ended in a 4-3 home win (after Liverpool led 3-1).
The 2015/16 game also saw both teams score, while last season’s Anfield clash ended 2-2.
Prediction: Bournemouth 2-2 Liverpool (AS) - Sky Bet odds: 14/1
Posted at 0905 GMT on 15/12/17.
Saturday Premier League
Leicester v Crystal Palace (1230GMT, Sky Sports Main Event and Premier League)
The weekend’s televised opener should provide decent entertainment value with a resurgent host around even money to collect all three points and make it five wins on the trot.
Manager Claude Puel may have taken a good deal of personal satisfaction in a moment or two away from the limelight after doing a total number on his old club Southampton in midweek but the Frenchman deserves huge praise already for reinvigorating the former champions.
He gets extra credit for clever rotation of his squad too, changing a successful line-up for the trip to St Mary’s and still getting the sort of exemplary performance that suggests everyone at the King Power is singing from the same hymn sheet.
They are likely to be matched in terms of character by a Palace team that hauled themselves out of the relegation places for 24 hours thanks to a dramatic 2-1 success over Watford before West Brom regained 17th spot with a draw at Liverpool.
The general direction for the Eagles is upward under Roy Hodgson and everyone in the camp seems to have even forgiven Christian Benteke for his penalty blunder that cost them points against Bournemouth.
It is the Belgian’s opposite number Jamie Vardy who interests me here though and I fancy Puel will stick with Shinji Okazaki to help provide him with the ammunition after the pair combined so well in the triumph over Southampton.
The tireless England front-man can crash home his 50th Premier League goal at a shade of odds-against on the way to narrowly keeping up the home side’s current winning streak.
Prediction: Leicester 2-1 Crystal Palace (DJ) - Sky Bet odds: 15/2
Arsenal v Newcastle (1500)
The Gunners’ Premier League season has already descended into a chase for the top four and the annual battle to finish higher than Tottenham after another lacklustre performance in midweek.
The lion’s share of possession at West Ham added up to very little after they were unable to break down an organised backline with just three attempts on target the result from all their huffing and puffing.
It could have been much worse if Javier Hernandez’s 11th-hour strike had not rattled back off the bar and a similar problem will be posed by Saturday’s visitors as they are going to do little more than sit in and defend in numbers.
The good news for Arsene Wenger is Toon are enduring both a desperate run of results and crisis of confidence currently which even a manager of Rafa Benitez’s quality and stature is struggling to put right.
They grafted away once more against Everton in midweek but could not get level after Karl Darlow’s first-half blunder before frustrations boiled over with perennial naughty boy Jonjo Shelvey getting himself red-carded late on.
There have been times during a run of just one point in eight games when they were a bounce of the ball or the width of a post away from altering the course of events, which suggests they are still capable of creating a chance or two at the Emirates Stadium and putting some pressure on the hosts.
That said, I very much have my doubts whether they can sustain any advantage for 90 minutes and land a 12/1 shock but I doubt they will be walloped either so may have to settle for heading north on the back of another morale-sapping narrow reverse.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Newcastle (DJ) - Sky Bet odds: 8/1
Brighton v Burnley (1500)
I am not sure what Burnley have to do, but one of the top flight’s in-form outfits are a bigger price than the struggling hosts at the Amex Stadium.
Perhaps it is the manner of victory from Sean Dyche’s Clarets with a rash of one-goal winning margins or maybe the bookmakers are expecting them to revert to type sometime soon and begin a tumble back down the standings.
Dealing in the here and now, Dyche continues to maximise the resources at his disposal and a useful change of pace from the bench once more paid dividends in midweek as they nicked a late win over Stoke.
They have oozed confidence on the road this season too after toppling Chelsea on the opening weekend and suffered just a pair of defeats so the 2/1 available is extremely tempting for them to pull off a south coast hat-trick with Southampton and Bournemouth already put to the sword.
The Seagulls have suffered after being on the wrong end of a 5-1 thumping at the hands of Liverpool, a spell that manager Chris Hughton expected to endure at some stage or another back in the top flight.
Since a 2-2 draw with Stoke towards the end of last month, they have managed just one Glenn Murray penalty in five outings so where the problem lies appears to be crystal clear.
Tomer Hemed had their best chance to give Tottenham a fright at Wembley on Wednesday but the pressure is on all of a sudden for them to start winning home games - something they have not managed since September 24 - with the gap between themselves and the drop zone dwindling to just three points.
Burnley did lose their last away game at Leicester but this represents an easier assignment even taking into account Brighton’s growing desperation so back the East Lancashire feel-good bandwagon to keep on rolling.
Prediction: Brighton 0-2 Burnley (DJ) - Sky Bet odds: 12/1
Chelsea v Southampton (1500)
The Saints strike me as a pretty decent outfit so that sort of team should be able to move on from a mauling and not dwell over the performance unnecessarily.
They were taken to the cleaners by Leicester within the first 30 minutes on Wednesday night and a 4-1 final outcome led manager Manuel Pellegrino to issue an apology to the fans who had left St Mary’s in their droves well before the final whistle.
Quizzed on what he felt went wrong, the Argentine said "everything" so it may seem like it is time to go back to the drawing board ahead of their trip to Stamford Bridge.
However, this is also a team that gave Arsenal a terrific game just a few days prior to the visit of the Foxes so I am inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt after what has been a decent run of performances on the whole.
Chelsea showed them how to go about things after their own dreary display against West Ham last weekend with a tactical masterclass away from home to crush Huddersfield.
Antonio Conte’s fluid front three ran rings around their west Yorkshire hosts to negate the absence of striker Alvaro Morata as they just about maintained any evaporating interest Conte has in the Premier League title.
For those of you after a short one or something to boost a multiple bet, the visitors getting two goals on the handicap at 3/4 makes some appeal but opposing the big guns (Man City at Swansea immediately springs to mind!) can leave you looking a bit silly so I shall refrain from putting it up as single.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Southampton (DJ) - Sky Bet odds: 15/2
Stoke v West Ham (1500)
The Stoke ownership’s veiled threat that Mark Hughes could be on very thin ice came a step closer to fruition with a 1-0 defeat at Burnley on Tuesday.
A winner for the hosts that arrived in the 89th minute was a real kick in the teeth but the performance up to that point had been more encouraging, certainly on the back of a 5-1 drubbing at Tottenham after which players were confronted by some miffed fans back at Stoke station.
Lower-to-mid table teams tend to fare overall on how fortunate they are in terms of the schedule and bad luck for Stoke that they bump into a West Ham side who are gradually turning the tide under David Moyes.
Four points from home games against Chelsea and Arsenal is an excellent haul as the Moyes mantra of hard work and concentration seems to be resonating among a group of players who had lost much of their zest over the closing weeks under Slaven Bilic.
Punters have already latched onto the Hammers ahead of this fixture but the mentality changes significantly - they will need to offer more with the ball than just sitting and soaking up pressure so not to give a team suffering a wobble any chance to undo that recent good work at the London Stadium.
This will be a significant day too for Marko Arnautovic, who not only seems to have benefited greatly from the arrival of Moyes, but also has the chance to get one over his old employers.
The volatile Austrian will have to deal with a hostile reception no doubt but he is 7/2 to score anytime and probably a similar sort of quote to get a card – it would be no real surprise to see him get the double up.
Some vastly improved defensive form under Moyes is under threat with the Scot scrambling to fill those slots at the back with Winston Reid now banned and a hard-fought point looks an acceptable outcome for both parties.
Prediction: Stoke 1-1 West Ham - Sky Bet odds: 9/2
Watford v Huddersfield (1500)
Both teams experienced a different type of harsh lesson in the top flight in midweek resulting in a similar outcome - a painful defeat.
Looking at the Terriers first, Chelsea marched into a chilly John Smith’s Stadium and served up a footballing masterclass that never allowed the hosts to get a foothold in the game at any point.
David Wagner will argue his 'safety first' approach against the big teams will give them the best chance of not being ripped to shreds but their distinct lack of pressure on the ball with striker Steve Mounie an total non-factor stood on his own up front with little support was meat and drink for Chelsea to prey on.
The impressive Marco Silva is enduring a sticky patch in charge of the Hornets after three defeats from four starts and it is hard to argue with his assumption they should have been out of sight before Crystal Palace’s late surge to claim all three points on Tuesday night.
Troy Deeney’s miss from two yards must be seen to be believed and Silva, whose career has been on a rapid upward curve ever since his arrival in the country, needs to develop another string to his managerial bow and rally the troops before they get too entrenched in this rut.
They are warmish favourites to rediscover the winning habit and there will be plenty of Billy Bunters happy to roll the dice at odds-on against a team that boasts a well-publicised abysmal away record.
Wagner will have sat down and assessed the loss to Chelsea and I would at least expect a much more aggressive approach in Hertfordshire in a bid to get something from the game.
That should be good enough to winkle out a valuable point with the visitors also fancied to end their woeful goal drought on the road in the process, so backing both teams to score is a reasonable route to take.
Prediction: Watford 1-1 Huddersfield - Sky Bet odds: 11/2
Manchester City v Tottenham (1730, BT Sport 1)
Pep Guardiola’s outstanding Premier League leaders have now carved their place in Premier League history with 15 straight victories but the target on their back grows bigger by the week as teams attempt to be the one to knock them off their stride.
Struggling Swansea made little impact in that quest despite the seriousness of their current plight at the foot of the table so the baton is handed on to Spurs at the Etihad Stadium in front of the TV cameras.
If both teams turn up at the peak of their powers then I don’t think there is a huge amount between them in terms of quality on the field but somehow City have an 18-point advantage over the Londoners.
It comes down to a combination of things - the former have shown an ability to grind out three points on the days when it is not all clicking into top gear while Spurs still continue to get in their own way on too many occasions.
There have been some silly dropped points at home after underwhelming displays while there record against rivals from the so-called 'big six' this season reads LWLL and suggests they still have a bit of an inferiority complex when it really matters most.
There will not be too many times this season they will go off at 5/1 but it highlights the huge gulf between City and the chasing pack at the moment.
They were completely unfazed by a testing trip across the city to Manchester United last weekend and were thoroughly deserving of all three points having subdued Jose Mourinho and company with relative ease.
Guardiola doesn’t strike me as a manager who chases statistical records ahead of trophies but 20 straight victories could now be in the back of his mind and would usurp his own mark of 19 set with Bayern Munich.
So it is over to you, Tottenham, who do have some previous when it comes to ending a lengthy winning streak as they halted eventual champions Chelsea at White Hart Lane back in January when their tally stood at 13 on the bounce.
We could be dealing with a once in a generation outfit though as Guardiola on more than one occasion has stated this is arguably the best side he has ever been involved with - the visitors may put up some resistance but win number 16 is very much on the cards for the leaders.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Tottenham - Sky Bet odds: 10/1