Commodore's EPL Picks

How can we not start with a special mention for Leicester City. Bottom last Christmas, top this Christmas – it’s the stuff of legends. To put things into context – only two clubs have staved off relegation after finding themselves in that position. West Brom were relegated the following campaign, while Sunderland finished 16th, two points ahead of Hull City. That’s the same margin the Foxes currently enjoy at the top of the table. Jamie Vardy’s record breaking run has been well documented but what of Riyad Mahrez? Eden Hazard was named PFA Player of the Year last season after 14 goals and nine assists over the course of the season. Mahrez has managed 13 goals and seven assists by Christmas. Whatever happens from here on in, it’s been one hell of a ride.

Saturday 26 December

23/10 Stoke City | Draw 21/10 | Man United 5/4 (14:45)

We start further down the table, however, with Man Utd’s trip to Stoke City. Jose Mourinho’s departure from Stamford Bridge has ramped up the pressure on Louis van Gaal, whose side fell at home to Norwich over the weekend. They must now travel to a club that has beaten the lines of Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea and Man City since April, scoring 12 times and conceding only once. Van Gaal’s time must surely be up if he fails to get a result against United old boy, Mark Hughes. Nothing that has come before, though, has suggested this will be anything other than a home win. Back the Potters to put an end to the miserable van Gaal era at Old Trafford.

16/10 Aston Villa | 21/10 | West Ham 7/4 (17:00)

Aston Villa came alive over the weekend, seemingly with the sole intent of parting me from my money. Jordan Ayew’s screamer earned them a deserved draw at Newcastle, but they need to start picking up wins if they’re to haul themselves in from the edge. West Ham provide the perfect opportunity for that. The Hammers season has taken a turn for the worse after a run of seven matches without a win. Their last three haven’t even seen a goal. It’s like watching Manchester United. Previous fixtures between these two suggest another low-scoring affair. There have only been seven goals scored in the last six meetings – making them under 1.5 at 18/10 a decent wager. I’m going with a home win though, pried up at 16/10. The 1-0 correct score at 6/1 is also a runner.

14/10 Bournemouth | 9/4 | Crystal Palace 19/10 (17:00)

More away league wins (11) in 2015 than Man United, Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea. Two more than Juventus and Atletico Madrid, the same number as Real Madrid, one fewer than Bayern Munich and two fewer than Barcelona. Crystal Palace are absolute beasts on the road. This week it’s Bournemouth who will try find a way to stop Alan Pardew’s rampant side. The Cherries have been resurgent in recent weeks, picking up valuable points in the battle to avoid relegation. Palace are aiming considerably higher after moving level on points with Man United and Tottenham. Given the year they’ve had on the road, it’s difficult to go against the Eagles here. Another decent price of 19/10 for the away win.

4/10 Chelsea | 36/10 | Watford 6/1 (17:00)

What to make of Chelsea and more importantly their players? They scored more goals against Sunderland than they did in their final five Premier League games under Jose Mourinho. Happy players perform better – imagine that. Watching Oscar pull off a rabona cross and three backheels in the opening 20 minutes at Stamford Bridge was like seeing a child on break up day. The unbridled joy of freedom. There were still moments of fragility at the back, though, which Watford can exploit this weekend. The Hornets absolutely battered Liverpool. Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo had a field day and could well emulate that performance at The Bridge. There will be goals. I’m backing Both Teams To Score at 9/10. It’s safer odds than a Chelsea win, and at markedly better odds. Strange that.

9/10 Liverpool | 27/10 | Leicester 27/10 (17:00)

Jurgen Klopp must be watching the clock, counting down the hours until the new year and the potential for reinforcements. Against Leicester this weekend, he could be forced to field a central defensive pairing of Kolo Toure and Lucas. God help us all. To make matters worse, former back-up Bolton “shot stopper”, Adam Bogdan, will be between the sticks. It’s going to be carnage. Leicester are currently in another league to that fallen giants. Having already dispatched of their Merseyside rivals, Claudio Ranieri’s team should have no problem seeing off the Reds at Anfield. The bookies don’t seem to agree and have priced Leicester up at a ludicrous 27/10. When will they ever learn. Pawn your Christmas presents and put all the money on the Foxes. Ho ho ho.

1/5 Man City | 11/2 | Sunderland 11/1 (17:00)

Manchester City really should be romping away with the Premier League. Instead, they find themselves in third place, six points from the summit. Hardly a catastrophe of Chelsea proportions, but still pretty shit for a squad boasting such quality. They were awful against Arsenal and not even a 15-minute Yaya Toure cameo (where was he for over an hour) can paper over the cracks. Without Vincent Kompany they are not the same side. Simple as. Having said that, they should have no problem seeing off Sunderland on Saturday. The Black Cats just cannot defend, while Fabio Borini is a sorry excuse for a striker. Man City are the flat track bullies of the Premier League and are tipped to triumph By Three Or More Goals at 14/10.

4/10 Tottenham | 36/10 | Norwich 6/1 (17:00)

Having already claimed results against the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United, Norwich City turn their attention to Tottenham this weekend. The Canaries have every reason to feel confident, having lost just once in their last five meetings with Spurs. The London club may sit in the Champions League places heading into Christmas, but they’ve yet to convince me they’ll be there come May. They got the better of a poor Southampton on Saturday, and are heavily favoured to make it two from two. However, their last home outing was a disappointing loss to Newcastle and I feel this one could have a twist in the tail. I’m leaning toward a draw at the very tasty price of 36/10.

19/20 Swansea | 9/4 | West Brom 3/1 (17:00)

Tony Pulis is a plague on the Premier League. There I said it. There is no place in football for his backward way of thinking and over-reliance on the physical aspects of the game to bludgeon teams into submission. Saturday’s match with Bournemouth was a tough one to stomach. Not due to the general lack of quality on show, but more, because of the pure savagery of Pulis’ players. James McLean should be banned for six weeks for his vengeful kick, while Saloman Rondon will serve three weeks for his foolish head-butt. Pulis defended his players following the final whistle as is customary. I hope they catch a klap from Swansea this weekend. They won’t, simply because Swansea are so poor. In fact, the 3/1 on offer for an away win is a decent price. If you can’t beat them...

2/1 Newcastle | 5/2 | Everton 5/4 (19:30)

Newcastle did me good and proper on Saturday evening, with Siem de Jong missing a guilt-edged chance to secure victory and some tidy profits for yours truly. This week they host Everton, a side worth watching, but not worth backing. Roberto Martinez, for all the beautiful football his side’s play, is not the manager to lead the Toffees to the promised land. Like Wigan before them, Everton just cannot defend. This despite boasting England’s first-choice left back, one of the league’s best right backs and perhaps England’s brightest young talents in John Stones. Without James McCarthy patrolling in front of the back four, Everton are susceptible to any decent footballing side. Newcastle just pass that test and should trouble the Toffees on Saturday. I’m backing Both Teams To Score at 6/10, while a 2-2 draw at 10/1 could be worth a dabble.

5/2 Southampton | 5/2 | Arsenal 21/20 (21:45)

Arsenal must be real title contenders now. I’ve had my doubts, despite tipping them pre-season, but they’ve been clinical in recent weeks. Southampton on Saturday provides them with another opportunity at three valuable points. The Saints have now lost five of their last six matches, with a home draw against Aston Villa their only reprieve in that period. I’m going to make this short and sweet. Back Arsenal at 21/20. If you can, back Olivier Giroud to score anytime. It’s like printing money.

I’m confident this weekend. Perhaps overly so. But there is plenty money to be made this weekend. Back Stoke/Leicester/Arsenal all to win at 23/1. Hell, you could even throw in Crystal Palace and make it 70/1. Now that’s what I call a bet. Enjoy the football and happy punting. Sala Kahle.

Written by Commodore Vegas
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EPL Picks
Stoke WIN 23/10
Aston Villa WIN 16/10
Crystal Palace WIN 19/10
Chelsea BTTS 9/10 
Leicester WIN 27/10
Man City BY 3 OR MORE 14/10
Tottenham DRAW 36/10
West Brom WIN 3/1
Newcastle BTTS 6/10
Arsenal WIN 21/20