Now that the distractions of the F.A. Cup replays are out of the way, all eyes are once again on the Premier League and what is shaping up to be a fascinating second half of the season.
We take a brief look at Saturday’s fixtures, including the clash between Man City and Spurs.
Tipsters bethut.co.uk have free bets available for all the coming games, so take a look at the previews below and see what takes your fancy.
Liverpool v Swansea City
Even taking Liverpool’s long midweek trip to Plymouth into consideration, the weekend’s Premier League fixtures should kick off with a home banker. It took a late James Milner penalty for Liverpool to come away with the points in a 2-1 win down in Wales back in October but surely this will be a much more straightforward match for the Reds to negotiate, even with Sadio Mane away on African Cup of Nations duty? In their last six at home, Jurgen Klopp’s team have won five and drawn one (against Plymouth, 0-0) and are as short as 1/5 to keep that unbeaten run going, while the only success the Swans have had in their last five is a 2-1 win at fellow strugglers Crystal Palace.
Bournemouth v Watford
Two teams who’ve arguably over-performed given the size of their budgets and their relative inexperience at this level. Five of the last six matches between the sides shave ended in draws, most recently 2-2 at Vicarage Road in October when the delightfully named Isaac Success snatched a share of the spoils for the home side with a late equaliser. It looks difficult to split them again so the smart money will be on another draw, which is available at a generous 13/5.
Crystal Palace v Everton
Big Sam’s arrival hasn’t had the desired effect at Selhurst Park just yet, a 2-1 F.A. Cup win over old club Bolton aside, and Palace find themselves precariously placed in the League table, on 16 points with only goal difference keeping them out of the relegation zone. They’re up an Everton side that finally delivered on its promise with a 4-0 thrashing of Manchester City. But the Eagles won’t be so accommodating at the back as City were and they may just put a brake on Everton’s recent momentum and hold them to a draw.
Middlesbrough v West Ham
West Ham will seek to build on a positive 3-0 win against Crystal Palace last weekend, while 16th -placed ‘Boro need the points to avoid being dragged down into the bottom three. Aitor Karanka’s side are four points clear of the drop zone, but can go within a point of their opponents with victory on Saturday. The first fixture between the sides at the London Stadium was more notable for the fighting than the football – apart from Dimitri Payet’s wonderful equaliser – and this could be another one of the purist.
Stoke City v Manchester United
Once it was Stoke City who were lambasted for playing the long ball game, now it’s the turn of United whose style of play attracted criticism from Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp following last weekend’s 1-1 draw. With the aerial ability of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the lack of a top-class playmaking midfielder though, who can blame Jose Mourinho for taking a more direct approach? A rare David de Gea mistake cost United all three points in the Old Trafford fixture, another 1-1 daw, and it’s difficult to see them slipping up again as odds of 8/13 would suggest.
West Brom v Sunderland
Another game that ended 1-1 first time out, after a late Sunderland equaliser. The Black Cats were rooted to the bottom of the table at the time, and in the midst of an injury crisis, and things haven’t improved much on either front since. They are one place off the bottom, 14 points and 11 places behind the Baggies who were better than the 4-0 scoreline against them suggested at Tottenham last week. Expect a response from the home side who are decent value at 7/10.
Manchester City v Tottenham
Spurs are in sensational form and City are not. There can only be one winner, can’t there? Mauricio Pochettino certainly seems to have the Indian sign over his opposite number. Pochettino’s first ever win as a manager came when Espanyol beat Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona at the Nou Camp in 2009, and the Argentinian inflicted a first defeat of the season on the Spaniard’s City when Spurs ran out 2-0 winners at White Hart Lane four months ago. 5/2 about an away win looks good value.