With Champions League and FA Cup matters settled, for now at least, attention turns back to the Premier League and a weekend of action that could have serous ramifications for those involved at both ends of the table.
So which are the pick of this week’s Premier League betting tips?
West Brom vs Arsenal (Saturday, 12:30pm)
Arsenal may have got the job done last time out against Lincoln in the FA Cup – that was the mother of all potential banana-skins, but they still aren’t really convincing. Three defeats in their last four Premier League outings suggests that confidence in their manager – and themselves – is at an all-time low for the Gunners.
Tony Pulis is a canny operator and he will know that Arsenal are there for the taking at the Hawthorns; but he won’t throw the kitchen sink at them. Instead, expect a pragmatic performance from the Baggies as they look to frustrate and contain the Gunners for as long as possible.
As the pressure mounts, West Brom will look to land the killer blow themselves; it’s a time-served smash-and-grab tactic that has served plucky underdogs well in the past.
If that’s the scenario that plays out, expect a low-scoring encounter on Saturday lunchtime.
Under 2.5 Goals (21/20 with William Hill)
Stoke City vs Chelsea (Saturday, 3pm)
Of all the teams to have caused Chelsea problems since they switched to their seemingly impenetrable 3-4-3 formation, surprisingly it is Stoke City who are right up there.
Okay, so they ended up on the wrong end of a 2-4 defeat at Stamford Bridge back on New Year’s Eve, but they gave the Blues a headache mightier than the one most revellers were experiencing the following morning.
The main architect was Peter Crouch, and the beanpole striker will again look to disrupt the Chelsea backline alongside Marko Arnautovic. The Blues have conceded in each of their last three away games, and that suggest they have a slight weakness at the back on their travels.
Both Teams to Score (Evens with Paddy Power)
Sunderland vs Burnley (Saturday, 3pm)
For Sunderland, this really will have the feeling of a must-win game. Burnley are the worst away team in the Premier League according to the stats, and so three points for the Black Cats really is a necessity, rather than a luxury.
That in itself applies plenty of pressure, and in front of a disgruntled band of home supporters you can almost hear the cries of anguish already.
Burnley’s away record is starting to enjoy cult status – W0 D2 L12 – but they really aren’t as bad as those numbers suggest.
They have lost by a single goal in seven of their last away games, including against the likes of Tottenham, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City. The Clarets will surely depart the North East with a positive result.
Draw (23/10 with BetVictor)
Bournemouth vs Swansea (Saturday, 5:30pm)
Saturday’s tea-time kick off sees two relegation-threatened sides duke it out, although you suspect their 3-2 win over West Ham last time out will prove to be a watershed moment for Bournemouth.
The Cherries really aren’t a bad side but they just can’t defend, but they do have the potency in attack to simply outscore their opponents.
Swansea will probably net here, but the loss of Fernando Llorente to injury will severely hamper their attempts to take all three points. The Spaniard has been in outstanding form of late, and while the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson can put the ball in the net clearly the absence of Llorente is a huge blow.
The Swans have lost, but scored, in each of their last three away games, and that pattern could well continue on Saturday.
Bournemouth to Win & Both Teams to Score (11/4 with bet365)
Middlesbrough vs Manchester United (Sunday, 12pm)
How the sacking of Aitor Karanka will change Middlesbrough’s philosophy is anybody’s guess, but in the short term at least the team will presumably continue with the Spaniard’s pragmatic approach.
Only 9/27 of their Premier League starts have witnessed Over 2.5 Goals, and up against a Manchester United side without three frontline strikers in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney you would have to anticipate another low-scoring encounter in what isn’t exactly a feast of football for Sunday lunchtime’s TV game.
Both Teams to Score – No (4/6 with BetVictor)
Manchester City vs Liverpool (Sunday, 4pm)
In contrast to Middlesbrough vs Manchester United, this *should* serve up an absolute teatime treat for those watching on.
Manchester City will be feeling particularly low after their Champions League exit, and that could manifest itself in another flaccid performance or a reaction of biblical proportion. We expect the latter.
More than half of Liverpool’s matches (17/28) have gone over the 2.5 mark, and with their vitality in attack – and mediocrity at the back – we would have to anticipate that record being extended at the City of Manchester Stadium on Sunday.
Both Teams to Score and Over 2.5 Goals (10/11 with Coral)