Our football expert takes a look at 3 top flight matches in the English Premier League this weekend. A relegation battle, an EPL classic fixture and a London derby to throw into the mix this week amongst others
Leeds vs Southampton
Leeds host Southampton in what could be a decisive fixture come the end of the season. Southampton currently sit bottom of the premier league table, just one point behind 19th placed Leeds. It’s a true 6 pointer, and a win for either side will be huge for any survival hopes.
Both clubs have recently sacked their manager in February, after poor starts to the season. The former Leeds manager Jesse March was first to go, followed by Southampton’s dismissal of Nathan Jones just 6 days later. March’s replacement came in the form of Leeds U21’s boss, Michael Skubala. The former 21’s boss faced a tough start, playing a resurgent Man United side twice in a week. His side were defeated 2-0 in the first fixture, but showed signs of improvement 4 days later earning them an important point in a premier league fixture. Now they have turned to ex-Watford boss Javi Garcia on a “flexible contract” to get the Yorkshire club out of relegation and to safety.
Leeds faced fellow relegation battlers Everton on the weekend in another bottom of the table clash. Points have been tough to gain for both sides, so all was on the line. It was a cagey affair, with Everton grinding out a massive 1-0 win which saw them creep out of the relegation zone. Leeds struggled to create many real chances, with 0 shots on target registered. Another cause for concern is Leeds’ lack of clean sheets. Since the turn of the new year, Lees have managed to register only one clean sheet, in a 0-0 draw to Brentford on Jan 22nd.
On the other hand, life got off to a better start for Southampton’s interim manager. Ruben Selles, who was the Saints assistant manager before Jones was sacked, kicked off his reign in charge with a huge result away to Chelsa. Southampton rode their luck at times, had to put bodies on the line to clear balls off the line but never gave up and ultimately deserved the much needed points. If they can show the same fight and desire till the end of the season, they may just climb out of the relegation zone.
Selles told the media he would be interested in the job on a permanent basis, and certainly hasn’t done his case any harm after his first game. This was Southampton’s first clean sheet in the league this year. A similar record to Leeds. If you think the lack of clean sheets will continue, you can back both teams to score on the weekend at odds of 1.83.
Continuing with the odds on offer – Leeds are favourites for this one at odds of 2.02. Leeds haven’t won a league game since November. So if you want to look elsewhere you can get odds of 3.82 on Southampton to back up their win at Stamford Bridge. You couldnt rule out the draw either, in what could be a cagey game with a lot to play for, available at the current odds of 3.41.
Crystal Palace vs Liverpool
Liverpool have struggled this season, especially after the Champions League thumping at the hands of Real Madrid this week, haven’t looked anywhere near the force of the past few seasons. Injuries haven’t helped, with key players missing for large parts of the season and still missing players such as Luis Diaz, Diego Jota and Ibrahim Konate. All which would likely start or play key roles. The attacking rhythm and intent hasn’t looked the same, the midfield looks slow and weak, and the defence has continued to concede too many goals for a usually title challenging side.
However, the last couple of league games have shown definite signs of improvement, ramping up their efforts for a top four finish. Especially on the weekend, after an impressive 2-0 away win against the premier league surprise package, Newcastle. Things weren’t perfect for Liverpool, and even with 10 men Newcastle were never out of the game. But, the attacking rhythm and creativity looked a lot better than it has recently. Liverpool fans will be delighted to see Dutch centre back Virgil Van Dijk back in action, a huge figure for the Red’s defence. Unsurprisingly, Newcastle were slight favourites heading into the game. Gakpo and Nunez were on the scoresheet for the reds. After a slow start, with no goals or assists in his first 6 games, new signing Cody Gakpo has now scored in both of Liverpool’s last two games.
As mentioned, Gakpo looks to have found his feet at his new club. Palace haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last 7 games. Gakpo could make it a third goal scoring week on the bounce this weekend, with odds to score anytime available at 2.54.
Liverpool’s opponent, Crystal Palace haven’t been in bad form themselves, but have been struggling to convert draws into wins. The South London side are winless in their last 5 games, drawing 4 and just losing the once. Sitting 6 points clear of the relegation zone, Palace fans will be looking for their side to start turning these draws into wins to climb further up the Premier league ladder.
Palace haven’t beaten Liverpool since 2017, so will be hoping to clear that record this Saturday. They’ll need to be at their very best to do so, against a side looking for their third league win on the bounce.
Tottenham vs Chelsea
Tottenham welcome London rivals Chelsea this weekend, hoping to keep up a solid run of form that keeps them in the champions league places. After a busy January transfer window, Chelsea have a point to prove and need to start producing results after a slow start to the new year.
The blue spent almost 300 million boosting their squad in January, on 8 new signings and have only won one out of 10 games this year. A terrible run of form for a club of Chelsea’s structure. Defensively, Chelsea have looked solid, even without regular full back Reece James. They average 0.91goals conceded per game this season, and only 0.6 in their last 5 games. Attacking prowess has been the issue, only scoring one goal in the last 5 games (vs West Ham), and averaging only 0.6 goals scored in their last 5 away games.
The likes of Madueke, Joao Felix, Fofana and Mudyrk were all signed to bolster Chelsea’s attacking threat in January, but have yet to make a significant impact.
Tottenham climbed into fourth place last weekend after Newcastle’s loss to Liverpool and their 2-0 victory over fellow London rivals West Ham. Tottenham look like a better attacking threat than Chelsea, and can always rely on the efficiency of Harry Kane to score 20+ a season. Spurs have been in decent form and fans won’t be unhappy with the way they’ve performed this season. They’ve won 3 out of their past 5 games, scoring 7 in the process but conceding 5 – 4 of these in a 4-1 defeat to Leicester.
Considering Chelsea’s poor run of form, Spurs rightfully go into the game 2.46 favourites. I think Tottenham should win the game, but you wouldn’t fully rule out a Chelsea side with the talent they have at their disposal. Joao Felix looks to have settled in already, but Chelsea will need some of their other January signings to step up if they’re to kick on this season.
After being dropped from the starting line up, Son Heung-Min showed hunger to come off the bench and score within 5 minutes. After an extraordinary season last year, scoring 23 goals, Son has struggled this season only managing to hit the back of the net on 5 occasions. There were promising signs last week, though, and I expect Son to be named back into the starting 11 after making such a positive impact. Son to score anytime is available at odds of 3.40, and 7.00 to be the first goalscorer. If he can reproduce his form of last season, these could look like good options for a wager.
**odds subject to change**
Premier League fixtures:
Saturday 25th February
Everton vs Aston Villa – 15.00
Leeds vs Southampton – 15.00
Leicester vs Arsenal – 15.00
West Ham vs Nottingham Forest – 15.00
AFC Bournemouth vs Manchester City – 17.30
Crystal Palace vs Liverpool – 17.45
Sunday 26th February
Tottenham vs Chelsea – 13.30