Commodore's EPL Picks

Normality has been restored. After almost six months of erratic results, the Premier League is starting to go as expected. There was Man City’s manhandling of Crystal Palace, Leicester’s draw at Villa Park and Watford’s defeat to Swansea. All three teams have punched well above their weight this season, but their legs are looking weary as we enter the final rounds. On the flip side, the big hitters have started to free their arms and have taken control of proceedings. City in particular looked in ominous form over the weekend, closing the gap on the top two to just one point. There may be some time to go yet, but it looks like we may see a run-in closer to previous years than what we’ve witnessed so far this campaign.

Saturday 23 January

31/10 Norwich | Draw 5/2 | Liverpool 9/10 (14:45) 

Liverpool will get the weekend underway with a trip to Carrow Road. The Reds may have played all the football against United, but their lack of finishing and penchant for ambitious efforts saw them fall to a damaging defeat. They now sit eight points off the top four, with just two wins in their last eight matches. Goals remain a problem for Jurgen Klopp and reports linking him to Shane Long show how little there is available at this time of the year. The Canaries aren’t faring much better. They have lost their last three matches in all competitions, conceding three goals on each occasion. Despite their shortcomings, I still fancy the Reds to claim the victory by the narrowest of margins.

5/2 Crystal Palace | 24/10 | Tottenham 11/10 (17:00) 

Crystal Palace continue to struggle in the absence of Yannick Bolasie and have now gone five league matches without either a victory or a goal. That’s relegation form, not that of a side chasing European football. They’ve now slipped below West Ham and Stoke in the table, making Saturday’s derby against Spurs even more important. Mauricio Pochettino’s side bounced back well against Sunderland, despite falling behind early. Last season, Spurs entered this fixture with high hopes, but a defeat sparked a run that saw their Champions League hopes extinguished. They look a better side than last year and even if Champions League football might allude them, a victory over Palace shouldn’t. Back Pochettino’s men to go back-to-back at 11/10.

19/20 Leicester | 24/10 | Stoke 29/10 (17:00) 

Leicester have now won just one of their last six matches. Their first lean run of the season coincided with Jamie Vardy’s absence through injury, but even his return was unable to inspire them to victory over Aston Villa. They remain level on points with Arsenal at the top of the table, but a failure to convert against Bournemouth and Aston Villa has cost Leicester four points. They need to pull themselves out of this mini slump, starting with Saturday’s home meeting with Stoke. Mark Hughes’ side have fared well against the current top six this season, with a 2-0 loss at the Emirates their only loss in seven outings. Jack Butland was once again in sublime form against the Gunners at the weekend. A similar performance will give the Potters every chance of claiming something here, making the Stoke Double Chance a solid bet at 8/10.

17/20 Manchester United | 24/10 | Southampton 36/10 (17:00) 

Manchester United’s victory over Liverpool has renewed optimism of a Champions League push. However, after being outplayed for long periods by a mediocre Liverpool team, things might not be as rosy as the result suggests. One positive is the form of Wayne Rooney, who took his goal – his fourth in consecutive matches – like a player in a confident place. Next up for United is a meeting with Southampton, a side that has enjoyed a remarkable return to form in the last week. Two victories, five goals and none conceded – Ronald Koeman’s side are looking up once again. Worryingly for them, their form against sides in the top half of the table makes for difficult reading. They’ve won just once in nine meetings, and have lost three of four on the road. United may not be in vintage form, but they are doing enough. You can back them at 17/20 to pick up another vital three points.

2/1 Sunderland | 9/4 | Bournemouth 27/20 (17:00) 

Any positive thoughts from Sunderland’s 4-2 victory over Swansea midweek were well and truly erased following their 4-1 defeat at White Hart Lane. Jan Kirchoff – the defender signed from Bayern Munich – endured a Jonathan Woodgate-esque debut, shipping a goal less than a minute after coming on and conceding a penalty for the fourth goal. Big Sam certainly has his work cut out for him. Their visitors on Saturday, Bournemouth, put in a strong showing against Norwich, with new signing Benik Afobe opening his account. The Cherries have built a decent squad whose football is easy on the eye. They have shown a willingness to attack all season and I don’t see that changing, despite the importance of the match. I fancy there to be some goals here, with the overs available at evens.

1/1 Watford | 24/10 | Newcastle 11/4 (17:00) 

Looking across the Newcastle squad, there is no doubt they shouldn’t find themselves in the bottom three. Chancel Mbemba, Gini Wijnaldum and Moussa Sissoko are gifted footballers and Jonjo Shelvey makes a solid addition to the squad. Shelvey may have his detractors, but his pass in the build-up to Wijnaldum’s eventual match-winner showed why Steve McLaren forked out £12 million to get him to St James’ Park. Next up for the Magpies is a meeting with Watford in a repeat of their FA Cup third round tie. The Hornets triumphed 1-0 on that occasion, but followed that with a lacklustre showing at St Mary’s. The goals have dried up a bit and there’s no reason why McLaren’s men can’t get a result here. An away win comes in at 11/4, which looks like decent value.

1/1 West Brom | 9/4 | Aston Villa 29/10 (17:00)

Could Aston Villa do the impossible and claw their way out of the bottom three? Four points from their last two matches suggests the great escape is on, but they have a long way to go yet. A Black Country derby is next for them as they face the short trip to the Hawthorns. The Baggies were extremely poor in their defeat to Southampton, but have a decent home record in this fixture. They’re unbeaten in five home matches against their rival, with their last defeat coming back in 2008. A record like that suggests they should get something out of this one, with the draw the most likely outcome. 

38/10 West Ham | 3/1 | Manchester City 13/20 (19:30)

West Ham’s run of four consecutive victories in all competitions came to an end with defeat at St James’ Park. Hardly an ideal time with Manchester City due to visit Upton Park this weekend. City were imperious in their dismantling of Crystal Palace and Manuel Pellegrini was even able to rest Yaya Toure, Raheem Sterling and Fernandinho. Sergio Aguero and David Silva’s return to form is an ominous sign for the rest of the league. Despite all this, City’s away form remains a cause for concern. They’ve won just one of their last six away matches in the league, although that came last time out against Watford. Odds of 13/20 point toward a draw, but I have a feeling City are about to shift gears and start their charge for the title. I’m going for an away win and throwing that into a couple multiples.

Sunday 24 January

13/20 Everton | 11/4 | Swansea 42/10 (15:30)

It was a familiar story as Everton threw away the lead twice to draw at Chelsea. Since mid-November, Everton have dropped 11 points from winning positions. No team has dropped more. The fact that John Terry’s equaliser came from an offside position is irrelevant. Everton should have closed the game out either through keeping possession or shutting up shop. But that is not the Martinez way. Like Brendan Rodgers across Stanley Park, he will live and die for his philosophy. The fans may enjoy a 3-3 draw, but they would enjoy a top four finish considerably more. However, the Toffees – even in this topsy-turvy season – find themselves as close to the bottom three as the top four. They really should put Swansea away this weekend, and their home form against the bottom clubs suggests they will. Another for the multiples at 13/20, although my faith in Martinez and his side is at an all-time low.

1/1 Arsenal | 5/2 | Chelsea 11/4 (18:00)

Arsenal looked every bit title contenders prior to their defeat to Chelsea in September. They ended the match with nine men after pantomime villain Diego Costa’s display of dreadful sportsmanship, but it was the 2-0 scoreline that hurt the most. It once again showed the shortcomings of Wenger’s side – their inability to win the really big games. In fact they have failed to win any of the last eight Premier League meetings with their London rivals. They need a win here, especially if City get the three points as expected. Chelsea haven’t seen much in the way of improvement since Guus Hiddink’s appointment and still look a side low on confidence. Despite all this, they always raise their game for this one. I fancy a low-scoring draw, available at 5/2.

Written by Commodore Vegas
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EPL Picks
Liverpool WIN 9/10
Tottenham WIN 11/10
Stoke WIN/DRAW 8/10
Man United WIN 17/20
Sunderland OVER 2.5 GOALS 1/1
Newcastle WIN 11/4
West Brom DRAW 9/4
Man City WIN 13/20
Everton WIN 13/20
Arsenal DRAW 5/2