Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
Manchester City moved back to the top of the Premier League on goal difference midweek courtesy of their win at Goodison.
Manchester United have won their last five away games in all competitions and I feel they will extend that impressive recent record at Craven Cottage against a Fulham side who continue to leak goals.
The Cottagers did score four unanswered goals in the second half of their last home game with Brighton, but they are unlikely to find this new-look United side in as generous a mood. United have won four more points than any other side in the division since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took charge at Old Trafford and it is hard to see past another win for the Norwegian and his burgeoning side.
Tip: United to win and both teams to score at 21/10
Palace showed they could cope without Wilfried Zaha when beating Fulham last weekend and they welcomed both on-loan striker Michy Batshuayi and the returning Christian Benteke to their ranks against the Cottagers.
Despite having a number of injuries to key players, West Ham were excellent against Liverpool on Monday night and deserved their hard-earned point, but I feel the Eagles will edge this London derby at Selhurst Park.
Tip: Palace to win at 11/10
Huddersfield have failed to score in their last five games in all competitions and they are preparing for life in the Championship given they sit marooned at the foot of the Premier League.
Since the start of 2018 only two sides Brighton (14) and Huddersfield (13) have lost more PL games on the road than the Gunners (12) and that is simply not good enough for a club of their stature. Unai Emery’s team do have quality going forward, but you wouldn’t know what their back four is going to be from week-to-week with a number of his defenders, seemingly, becoming increasingly injury prone.
That said I would be surprised if the Gunners didn’t return to winning ways at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Tip: Arsenal -1 on the handicap at 8/5
Liverpool have gained 62 points from their first 25 PL games this term and only once previously in the 1997/98 season has the club gained more points (63) at the corresponding stage of the season. This shows what a magnificent season the Reds are having, and it was totally unrealistic that they would continue to just blow teams away given what is at stake.
Both Leicester City and West Ham raised their game and thoroughly deserved their point in recent games, but the Reds didn’t lose those matches and they have still only lost one league game so far this term.
Bournemouth were tremendous at home to Chelsea last week but have lost their last seven away league games and conceded two or more in all those fixtures. I fully expect Liverpool to return to winning ways.
Tip: Liverpool to win to nil at 11/10
Improving Southampton are unbeaten in their last five PL games and I think they can make it six against the Bluebirds even though Danny Ings picked up another injury against his former club Burnley last weekend.
Nathan Redmond has certainly enjoyed life under new Saints’ boss Ralph Hasenhuttl with three goals and two assists from his ten games since the Austrian took charge. Note Redmond had no direct involvement in any Saints’ goal in his 15 previous PL games for the club.
The Bluebirds picked up a valuable three points at home to Bournemouth at an emotionally-charged Cardiff City Stadium last weekend, but I think the hosts will keep the points on the south coast and ease their relegation fears.
Tip: Southampton to win at 3/4
This will be the first time Marco Silva has returned to Watford since he left the club under acrimonious circumstances last season. The Everton manager – and former Hornets favourite Richarlison – can expect a frosty reception at Vicarage Road.
I don’t think it will be a happy return to his former club for the Portuguese boss, however, given the current form of the Blues although they played with more intensity against City midweek.
Watford failed to have a single shot on target against Brighton at the Amex last weekend, but they will be well aware how vulnerable the Blues are at set-pieces and I feel the hosts will keep the points in a game likely to be played in a hostile atmosphere.
Tip: Watford to win at 13/10
Brighton have failed to score in three successive home PL games, but they had 24 shots against Watford in their goalless draw last weekend and I feel they will pick up a point against Burnley.
The Clarets got a late equaliser at home to Southampton on Saturday when they were awarded their first penalty in 67 games, having had a stonewall spot kick turned down earlier in the match. A low-scoring draw for me.
Tip: Game to finish 1-1 at 11/2
Leicester have taken points off both City and Liverpool in recent weeks, but I feel Spurs will maintain their title challenge with another valuable three home points against the Foxes.
Spurs have coped well with their recent injury problems gaining narrow wins courtesy of late winners against Fulham, Watford and Newcastle without impressing, but this is a period of the season when results are everything and I think Mauricio Pochettino’s side will maintain their title challenge – if only just.
Tip: Spurs to win and both teams to score at 23/10
City have won nine of their ten games in 2019 scoring 36 times in the process, but Chelsea showed their teeth, after their heavy defeat at Bournemouth, against Huddersfield last weekend and this is a big test for both sides with Chelsea desperate to end the season in the top four.
Chelsea will not just sit back and defend at the Emirates – which might be their undoing – and I expect them to play a huge part in what promises to be an entertaining clash between two quality sides in what is a dress rehearsal for the League Cup Final later in the month.
Tip: City to win and both teams to score at 19/10
Wolves have scored three or more goals in their last three PL games, but Newcastle have shown in recent games just how well organised and resilient the Magpies are under Rafa Benitez.
Wolves look favourites to end the season top of the league without the “big-six” and they have had a very good first-season back in the elite league of English football. Whether they can take the next step and break into the top six next term is up for debate, but the Molineux outfit should be proud of what they have achieved so far this term and I feel they will keep the points against United.
Tip: Wolves to win and under 2.5 goals at 12/5
Weekend PL wager: Manchester United, Southampton and Wolves at 4/1