What a joyous feeling it is to note that the international break is now over and ‘real’ football is back to soothe the woes of spectators, armchair enthusiasts and punters alike.
We can forget a pair of insipid performances from England (oh what a surprise) and instead focus on getting our bets right for the return of the English Premier League; this weekend’s coupon, incidentally, looks like a cracker.
Chelsea vs Leicester City (12:30pm)
It was a rather descriptive change that Antonio Conte made to the way his Chelsea line up last time out against Hull City: he basically admitted that his side have problems defensively, and out went Branislav Ivanovic and in came a rather Italian-looking 3-5-2 formation. The results were positive enough following a 2-0 win over brave Hull City.
That shape offers up some interesting tactical titbits for football fans of such a persuasion. The channels for Leicester’s Jamie Vardy to run into will be blocked off by the presence of an additional centre back, and so instead the focus will be on Riyad Mahrez, in conjunction with Danny Simpson, to create an overload on Marcos Alonso down Chelsea’s left flank.
But at the other end of the pitch we can expect Eden Hazard and William to drop into the half spaces and cause havoc just as they did against Hull; firing off shots of their own and sliding Diego Costa in on goal too.
The Spaniard netted last time out – his sixth of the season, and it is easy to forget what with the theatrical shenanigans just how good a player he is. With Hazard and Willian drifting infield and Robert Huth and Wes Morgan looking vulnerable, Costa will fancy his chances of netting again here.
Diego Costa to Score Anytime at 5/6 with bet365
Arsenal vs Swansea (3pm)
As Arsene Wenger celebrates 20 years in charge at Arsenal, Swansea will welcome Bob Bradley to their dugout for the very first time. The American is known for his pragmatic approach, and will have been working hard on the training ground with his charges to find a solution to their defensive woes – that may come to the detriment of their attacking play.
The Swans have netted in four of their last five matches, but they don’t really convince all the same, while the Gunners have a pair of clean sheets on the bounce and will be confident of another now that Shkodran Mustafi has settle into English football.
Expect Swansea to improve, slowly but surely, under Bradley, but with the international break he has had little time to work with his players and as such we’d expect a routine Arsenal victory here.
Arsenal to Win to Nil at 23/20 with William Hill
Bournemouth vs Hull City (3pm)
The international break can be a bit of a nuisance – especially when you have a thin squad. Imagine how Hull boss Mike was Phelan as he waved his two strikers, Dieumerci Mbokani and Abel Hernandez, off to the Congo and Colombia respectively. Even if they come back fit the jetlag will surely take its toll, while Scottish trio Robert Snodgrass, Andrew Robertson and David Marshall also experienced heartache as Scotland disappointed not once but twice in the space of four days.
Factor in their form – three defeats on the spin, eleven goals conceded – and it’s hardly a golden time to be a Hull City supporter.
Bournemouth get on with business admirably under Eddie Howe, and you get the impression that if they can just survive in the dog-eat-dog world of the Premier League for one more season then they could become a top-half stalwart in years to come.
They’ll certainly be looking for three points here: their squad is largely untroubled by international football, and they are on a decent enough run with victories over Everton and West Brom the highlights.
Bournemouth to Win at 5/6 with Betfair
West Brom vs Tottenham (3pm)
Don’t be ashamed if you thought that Tottenham would falter hopelessly without Harry Kane – you’re not the only one. Indeed, it is perhaps only Mauricio Pochettino who saw this level of capability in the Englishman’s replacement, Son Heung-Min, after a stop-start campaign in 2015/16.
But four goals in as many games can put to bed any lingering doubts about Spurs post-Kane.
We note that four of their last six games have witnessed three or fewer goals, and it is hard to see that trend being ripped up at the Hawthorns. West Brom concede at a rate of a goal per game and are hardly any more expressive at the other end of the pitch: they’ve netted eight in seven but four of those came in a single afternoon against the hapless Hammers.
Under 2.5 Goals at 4/5 with Betfred