Hello, Nigel Seeley here as I’m back from my travels to Qatar and raring to go for the return of the EPL. I have my 3 top picks for the first set of fixtures on the return from the World Cup break.
Leicester City vs. Newcastle Utd (Monday, 10 a.m. ET)
Leicester City entertains high-flying Newcastle on Boxing Day with the Magpies arriving at this game in third place in the EPL. Eddie Howe has had a stunning season and brings his team to The King Power just 2 points behind the reigning Champions and EPL title favorites Manchester City. Howe will not have wanted the World Cup break because his team was in sizzling form and had not been beaten in 10 games. They have won their last five and goals have been flowing with Paraguayan signing Miguel Almiron hitting the net in seven of his last eight EPL appearances. Howe will be keen to carry on where his side left off and will be going all out for a win and consolidate his team’s Champions League aspirations. He did not lose many of his players to the World Cup and will be feeling confident they can hit the ground running into the second half of the season.
Hosts Leicester will feel confident they can halt the Magpies run as like Newcastle they finished the period before the World Cup in excellent form as they’re now up to 13th place after languishing in the relegation zone after a wretched start to the season and now on the back of six wins from their last seven.
The Foxes, like Newcastle, didn’t have many players in action at the World Cup with their three main goal threats – attacking midfielder Harvey Barnes, Jamie Vardy and James Madison – fresh and rested as none of them played in Qatar.
With two in-form teams on winning streaks, I envisage an attacking game with lots of goal scoring opportunities. When these two meet it is often an exciting game and the last five meetings have seen the Over 2.5 goals cash and I believe it will be six times in a row after this game.
Pick: Over 2.5 goals at -120
Everton vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers (Monday, 10 a.m. ET)
I return to a favorite bet of mine as the Wolves halftime Draw is like seeing an old friend again after a long vacation. Wolves languish rock bottom of the EPL and at times this season have looked a truly awful team devoid of any attacking ideas. They will cling to the hope that new boss Julen Lopetegui can turn around their fortunes, but I have my doubts the former Sevilla coach can bring about any real improvement with this squad of players. In seven away games this season, they have managed just two Draws and have scored just eight times all year and in four of those matches the Draw has cashed at halftime.
These are stats that have relegation written in capital letters all over them. They will attempt to frustrate Everton and they can succeed for the first 45 minutes at least and, as always, their aim will be to not lose as opposed to trying to win.
Frank Lampard has endured a difficult season at Everton and the supporters have made it very clear to him that the players and the owners are far from happy with life at the moment. Everton could not manage to score at all in their final three games before the World Cup and this is a clash between the two lowest-scorers in the EPL.
The Draw at halftime is a play we have cashed time and time again with Wolves this season and it’s a bet that has cashed in the last two seasons. And when you add in Everton’s own shocking recent form and lack of goals and throw into the mix the number of matches that Wolves have been drawing at halftime this season – and especially against bottom-half clubs – to keep getting this market at plus-money is clear value.
Pick: Halftime Draw +105
Manchester United vs. Nottingham Forest (Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET)
My final pick this week is in the Manchester United game with relegation favorites Nottingham Forest. When Forest plays the top six EPL teams one thing seems to happen: they lose and heavily!!!
They suffered a 6-0 battering against Manchester City and, in their final away game before the World Cup, League-leading Arsenal took them apart 5-0 and I see it being a similar big defeat at Old Trafford on Tuesday. Their manager, Steve Cooper, recently received what many saw as an unlikely vote of confidence from the owner and will remain in charge of the club for the rest of the season at least. He will do his best to organize his side defensively, but the fact remains they are struggling in general at EPL level and are being ruthlessly exposed by the top teams, highlighted by them scoring just one road goal this season.
United enters a new era without Ronaldo in fifth place in the EPL ahead of bitter rivals Liverpool and just three points behind Tottenham, who hold fourth place in Champions League. Manager Erik Ten Hag will know that this is a must-win game if they are to claim that fourth place and his side will be attacking from the outset. Their recent home form has been impressive, winning their last four, and I see a convincing home win in this game.
The play, though, is for returning World Cup star Marcus Rashford to find the net. Rashford enjoyed a successful World Cup scoring three times despite coming on as a substitute. He is a confident player and will be firing on all cylinders and before the finals had hit three goals in six appearances for United and returned with a wonder goal in the EFL Cup win over Burnley on his return from Qatar.
In a game where United will be on the attack for huge parts of the game and where they are a 2-goal favorite, I think he can keep his scoring streak going and establish himself as the main goal threat at Old Trafford now that Ronaldo has moved on. At +160 to score at any time against the worst defense in the EPL and with his confidence and stock on a high after his performances in Qatar, this looks a sensible play.
Pick: Marcus Rashford to Score Anytime +160