Newcastle v Wolves (Friday, 20:00) – Drawing from the past
How much stock should be placed in head-to-heads when determining the outcome of a forthcoming fixture? Just a little, right? If that.
Sometimes though, the patterns that emerge from a game’s history are so compelling they are hard to ignore, as is the case with Newcastle and Wolves and their Premier League back-catalogue.
In all 13 occasions they have met in the top-flight, both teams have scored, and 69% of the time the game ended all-square. Indeed, no other fixture can top that percentage for draws.
Add in that the Magpies and their somewhat unpredictable visitors this Friday evening have both conceded 11 in their last 10 matches and this has got score-draw all over it. It’s a good price too.
Everton v Man United (Saturday, 12:30) – Toffees are stuck
Your relationship is on the rocks. It feels like the end. Resolved to saving it you go out for a fancy meal. You offer up your finest chat. You give it your all.
Only at the end of the evening you have an enormous row and worse yet, this Saturday you are both committed to attending a big social event.
That’s how it psychologically must be for Everton players right now after their seismic loss to Burnley midweek and it is going to be immensely difficult for them to even put on a brave face.
United have their own problems of course but they have only failed to score once in their last ten. The Toffees meanwhile have kept just two clean sheets since early November.
Arsenal v Brighton (Saturday, 15:00) – Seagulls grounded
In their last seven games, the Seagulls have accumulated 103 attempts on goal. They have scored once.
This wastefulness has long been a feature of Graham Potter’s side, but it is escalating wildly of late and that ridiculous number of 1-1 draws from earlier in the campaign – eight from 17 – must seem like salad days for a team that has run out of gas with eight games still to play.
This may be unkind, and it may be disrespectful, but if the Gunners could have handpicked a fixture to recover from their jolting defeat at Palace last Monday it would have been Brighton at home.
Southampton v Chelsea (Saturday, 15:00) – Blues to bounce back
Chelsea have only lost once in 13 visits to St Mary’s and though they travel to the south coast licking their wounds after a thumping loss to Brentford it’s worth noting they have never lost consecutively in the league under Thomas Tuchel.
Still, that 4-1 defeat shocked, exposing their every flaw, not only to the outside world but to themselves and when their Champions League reverse to Real Madrid on Wednesday is factored in, they must now take on a side who have lost only four in nine against the ‘top six’ this term, with confidence fragile.
Regardless, let’s take a punt on the Blues responding well – a faith they’ve earned and warrant – and back them to respond early too. The Saints have conceded six goals in their last four matches inside the opening half an hour.
Watford v Leeds (Saturday, 15:00) – Samba saviour to strike again
With Patrick Bamford out and promising youngster Joe Gelhardt a doubt with a dead leg, so much of Leeds’ attacking impetus will fall on Raphinha at Vicarage Road. Then again, what’s new? The brilliant Brazilian has scored over a quarter of his side’s league goals in 2021/22 and has taken on more shots than anyone in the top-flight save for a heavyweight quartet of Mane, Salah, Kane and Ronaldo.
Leeds look a much improved proposition of late under new boss Jesse Marsch and should be fancied against a sorry Watford collective that is going down throwing the odd punch, but going down all the same.
Aston Villa v Tottenham (Saturday, 17:30) – A gift-wrapped win for Kane and co
Take a Ronaldo hat-trick out of the reckoning and it’s fair to say that Spurs are on the up right now, scoring freely and not averse to keeping a clean sheet or two.
An average of 3.5 goals per game from their last six commitments is testimony to Harry Kane’s return to form and a revitalized partnership with Son Heung-min that once had Tottenham hunting for titles. At the back they have limited their last three opponents to a meagre two shots on target in total.
As for the hosts, three defeats on the bounce have prompted Steven Gerrard to question his side’s desire. Their gifting of cheap goals is becoming a concern.
A big plus for Spurs is how Dejan Kulusevski has taken to English football like a duck to water, the skillful Swede boasting four assists in five.
Brentford v West Ham (Sunday, 14:00) – Drought to lunch
In many respects, this is the trickiest game to call of this weekend’s roster, though the Hammers’ poor form away from the London Stadium does tilt matters in the Bees’ favour a touch. David Moyes’ men last won away on New Year’s Day.
Elsewhere however, West Ham are not in terrible shape at all at present, with Jarrod Bowen a consistent threat up front. The 25-year-old has been directly involved in 17 goals this term.
Brentford meanwhile are still peeling themselves off the ceiling after deconstructing Chelsea last week, a victory that makes it three in four for Thomas Frank’s resurgent side. It’s an improvement partly orchestrated by Christian Eriksen, his rare class conjuring up five chances in his three starts to date.
Go with Bowen by all means, or indeed Eriksen, but gut instinct leads us to Michail Antonio, who is enduring his worst goal drought for nearly four years. The big targetman has bagged three goals this season in London derbies and it’s only a matter of time before he starts scoring again.
Leicester v Crystal Palace (Sunday, 14:00) – A good, clean, watchable fight
Impenetrable Palace have not conceded for well over five hours while in the attacking third everything seems to be clicking for Zaha, Olise, Gallagher and Mateta. Not only are the Eagles one of the most in-form teams around, they’re also eminently watchable.
If any striker is going to threaten their parsimony though it’s Kelechi Iheanacho, who has netted more against Palace than any other opponent. The Nigerian frontman has directly been involved in 18 goals in his last 20 starts for the Foxes and is providing welcomed compensation for the loss of Jamie Vardy.
Both sides at the King Power this Sunday reside in the top six in the fair play table so don’t expect too much argy-bargy.
Norwich v Burnley (Sunday, 14:00) – Nerves to hold sway
Does the hosting of fellow relegation-strugglers Burnley place the Canaries in their last-chance saloon? Can they afford anything less than three points this weekend?
Looking at the table and the scant fixtures left, it does feel like Dean Smith’s side have nothing left to lose and caution needs to be thrown to the Norfolk wind.
If that means some ambition will be shown at Carrow Road the obvious follow-up query is: are they capable to making the most of it? To which the short answer is, no, probably not.
Norwich have only found the net every 150 minutes this campaign and all season long they’ve been overly reliant on Teemu Pukki, the Finnish finisher scoring 44.4% of their slight haul.
Norwich and Burnley are the only two teams yet to break 100+ for shots on target in 2021/22. They’re the only teams yet to break 300+ for attempts on goal.
More so, if neither side breaks the dead lock this could get tight and tense very quickly.
Man City v Liverpool (Sunday, 16:30) – Corners flagged
It feels almost sacrilegious to focus on corners – and even worse, the lack of – ahead of one of the biggest games in English football for years, featuring two generational teams that have raised the bar, time and again.
Even so, it would be wrong to overlook the fact that each club’s corner-count in recent weeks has dipped, very possibly as a consequence of their title race, while this fixture tends to leave its players extra careful not to concede set pieces.
Going into this Spring, both City and Liverpool were routinely racking up double figures but that has decreased to 6.5 corners per team, per game in their last ten.
As for their previous meetings, the most recent three has offered up a meagre 5.5 per clash.